Interview with Proof
By David Friedman

Is it true that after all the joking around you did on the D12 and Promatic albums, you’re going to be serious on your solo debut, the "Searching 4 Jerry Garcia"?
I feel like a lot of shit I’ve done, it’s been me. But you really don’t know anything about Proof. You really don’t know like ‘What kind of individual is he?’ You can only assume. By being serious, it’s not even personal in the fact of I’m gonna tell you what me and my mother’s relationship is or how me and my kids are—none of that. It’s a side of me where I express myself about issues and everything. Not that I’m about to become a politician, but just a different side of me.
What are some of the things fans will learn about you from listening to your new album?
I smoke crack!...That common sense ain’t all that common. And that’s what I’m bringing to the game. I promise that. I want people to realize that hip-hop—it’s all mundane and monotonous now. And I want them to grow. It should be a growth.
What are some of the other subjects you address on the "Jerry Garcia" album?
It ranges, man. It ranges from things that my momma always told me to spaced out, wild shit—like this raver shit. When we’re going around the world seeing a lot of things, there’s so much more to express, I feel, than just spittin’, spittin’, spittin’, spittin’. I think we should have substance. Hip-hop is lacking a lot of substance.
You’ve got a lot of songs named after famous people, including "Janis Joplin," "Kurt Cobain," "Billie Holiday" and "Neil Armstrong." What made you pick these people to name your songs after?
Well, ‘Kurt Cobain’ is a song addressed to D12, Eminem and a lot of my closest friends and family members. It’s like a letter to them all. Then, of course, at the end of the song I kill myself. When I made the song, I felt like some Kurt Cobain shit where you reach the end of your rope. Then, with the ‘Billie Holiday,’ the feel of it puts me in a smoky nightclub, jazzy type shit. One of my mother’s lessons she taught me in life is applied there. It talks about being abused, beaten, crucified.
Being that you’re such close friends with Eminem, I’ve got to wonder why you’re releasing your album on I.F. Records/AMC and not Shady Records or Aftermath,. Why not take advantage of that connection with Eminem?
I want to build my own thing. I will support your house as much as possible. Thank you for helping me build my house. That’s all. It’s a relationship where I want to step out and have my own label, I want to put out my own artists, I’ve got my own views. There’s no conflict or anything between us. It’s just grown man shit. I want to do my own thing. But I’m not straying away from my camp at all. You know how most people jump and they totally just leave the whole thing alone? You’ll still see me on stage with Eminem as a hype man—whether it’s five million records sold, whether it’s two million records sold, whether it’s two records sold. That bond is forever. We’re sweet on that. A tattoo is for life. We don’t play those games.
Why would Eminem put out 50 Cent’s album and Obie Trice’s album before your solo album?
Because it’s his business thing. I’ve already got my own thing structured and he’s already got D12. I’m already part of that scene. And if people look at it like that, I think people are very closed-minded to the fact that he already looked out for his homies. And
Shady Records is a label. It’s not just a haven for homies. It’s a business.
Are you aiming for the level of commercial success with your solo album that you achieved with the D12 album in 2001?
I’m not even looking for the kind of commercial success I had with D12. This is to establish myself as an emcee, to establish my add on to hip-hip. I’m not here to take or ride the coattail of anyone, and it’s not even a spin-off or anything like that. There will be no D12 or Eminem-sounding songs. It’s just Proof.
Your mother reads poetry on the song "Billie Holiday" on your solo album. What was it like putting that song together?
That was cool, man, because me and my mother, we don’t see eye to eye a lot. My mother was a hustler. She still runs an after-hours in Detroit, out of her house on the east side of Detroit. My mom is a hustler for life. And I felt like, for a long time, we developed a relationship together. I thought my mother was crazy the way she used to chase her men around her husband at the time, who is now a preacher. So you know how that was.
What’s the story with your father?
My dad’s a crack head. My father had a group called The Politicians and he produced The Jones Girls. He produced Marvin Gaye, he produced Tower of Power, he did some shit with Rare Earth or Ohio Players. He did a lot of work back in the day. He did Holland and Dozier stuff. My father was doing it.
Other than rapping, what were you into when you were growing up?
Breaking and entering. That’s the main thing we used to do on Runyon. That was it, man. I was for rap. That was me. We used to play a little tennis and baseball, crazy shit like that for a minute.
Who are the rappers who you consider to be your main influences?
I’m an old school cat, man. I like the Rakims, KRS-Ones, Big Daddys, LL Cool Js, Public Enemy, Redman—shit like that, as far as rap goes.
Did you listen to any Detroit rappers while you were coming up into the rap game?
The local scene? Yeah. Mercilous Amir, A.W.O.L. and, of course, Breed, Awesome Dre. I listened to B-Boy X, who was actually Drunken Master back in the day. Smiley...of course K-Stone. I could go on for days with all kinds of old school acts. Ghost Town, which later became Slum Village. Mad muthafuckas. I am the underground scene. I’ve been here forever.
A lot of fans look at the early to mid-’90s, before Eminem and Kid Rock became household names and international rap stars, and they think of the groups that started a movement in Detroit. There was the House of Krazees, Insane Clown Posse and Esham and Natas. What are your thoughts on those groups?
House of Krazees, they did their thing. Insane Clown Posse, those muthafuckas never were running the D like that. They ain’t even from Detroit. That’s the truth of the matter. Esham, he was doing his thing back in the day but he fell off when his brother went over the cuckoo’s nest. It was all good. Esham, in fact, had one of those independent companies that could have really did something had he not been so shallow minded.
What do you mean by that?
As far as expanding their company. They could’ve taken it to the next level and shit. But I think when he tried to do that it was too late because he turned his back on his grassroots fans that he had when he just tried to start making titty bar music and tried to get all like that. He abandoned his so-called patented acid rap when he left it alone. Now he’s trying to go back to it, but it’s too late. I mean, Esham, he did some good things, man. At one point in time, he did a lot of dope music, back in the day. Not even dope music...It was some controversial shit when he was cussing out God and shit. It was like, ‘Oh, my God. He’s cussing out God.’
Esham and his followers have said in the past that D12 has ripped off his style. What do you make of all of that?
That shit is so night and day, you can’t compare it. He’s talking about, his first album was ‘Sittin’ down in the crack house, earning my pay. If a base head gets crazy, I’ll just blow them away.’ Right there, rhyme structures are everything. He’s a single-syllable rhyming word person. He doesn’t use compound structures. Our shock value of rap, what we do, is some battling. Esham’s never been a battle rapper. I feel like for him to even say Em stole this from him, I’m like, ‘What the fuck are you talking about? Y’all is two totally different rappers.’

Psychopathic Records or Reel Life Productions could have tried to corner the market on Detroit rap by signing Eminem and D12 well before you joined Interscope and Aftermath. Why do you think they never tried to sign you?
That’s what I’m trying to tell you. Even before there was an Eminem, they could have had a lot of rappers signed. But they couldn’t. They couldn’t see it that way. They can’t even do it that way because they’ve gotta be on top. And that’s why the karma of their actions is just all against them now.
How old were you when you started rapping?
I’ve been rapping for like 14, 15 years. So I was about 12, 13.
So you had been rapping for about 13 years before the D12 album came out. Had you recorded a lot of material before then?
I’ve probably got about 150 to 200 songs locally. I’ve got a lot of songs, man.
Looking back on D12’s debut album, "Devil’s Night," were you happy with going platinum or did you feel like that album should have done even better?
You know, the feeling is that this time we’ve gotta come for our respect. Because by Em’s popularity, it took us into the spotlight, but it also took us the wrong way. And therefore our street credibility demised instantly. So now we have to reinvent ourselves and come for respect and come for identity. I think my identity is pretty much together because whenever you see Em, you see me. And I do this little shit, put out the Promatic project, just little underground shit. I keep moving. As for the rest of my fellas, they’ve gotta get their identities together. You know Bizarre because of that wild, off the wall shit he says. But the other guys have to step up to the plate and we have to reinvent the whole D12 thing and bring it back harder and with more substance.
Does that mean that Eminem won’t be rapping on the songs as much even though he’s a member of D12?
He’s gonna play the background more, in production. He’ll do his thing. He’s still gonna be in D12, the crew. But it’s a maturity that has to happen.
Have you already started recorded the next D12 album?
Right now we’re recording the next album. Budgets just started opening up, so we’re getting busy right now as we speak. We’re finishing the Obie Trice album and they just finished the 50 Cent album two weeks ago. We try to do everything collectively. We just did a show in Philly yesterday, D12 and Obie Trice.
You’ve got your own label, Iron Fist Records. Who are you working with on your label?
Right now, I’m working with Mountain Climbaz. Strike didn’t get out of jail. That’s the dude that’s in the movie with the braids—Lickety Split. I’m working with him. I’m trying to work with Breed. Of course, I work with Dogmatic. I’m also working with 1st Born. And, after this solo album, I’m about to drop a compilation called "Game Spit." I’m working on taking D12 members, Shady Records members and featuring them with people. Have you noticed that there’s not a lot of features for the Shady Records family? So I’m about to take G-Unit members, D12 members and put them on songs—like put Proof and Bubba Sparxxx on a song, put Dina Rae and Brooklyn on a song. Some shit so that motherfuckers could see that aspect. Put Swift and Biz Markie on a song, ‘Nobody Beats the Swift.’ Just some crazy shit where you have that element.
In December 2002, you released a six-song, vinyl EP called "Electric Cool-Aid: Acid Testing." Are you still planning on releasing a full-length album by the same title?
Yep. But that’s gonna be just underground Internet shit. It’ll be an actual CD, but they’ll probably be floating around Detroit like mix tapes. It’ll probably be on The crazy thing is, it’s only gonna cost like a dollar or $2 or something. It’s gonna be some wild shit.



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