Hip Hop Fridays: In Appreciation of Big Proof by Mark Thomson
There are very few real men of vision, and Proof was one of them. It’s still unsettling to know he’s gone, or to even speak of him in a past tense. On the day he was killed, I had barely woken up when my friend from NYC hit me on the Blackberry messenger to say Proof was gone. I didn’t even believe him, because just the day before he had mentioned he was putting together a production album and needed my assistance getting some artists to fit on it. I mentioned Proof was someone I could reach, and my homie expressed a lot of interest in working with him. I was supposed to phone Proof that night to arrange that, as well as discuss possibilities for Proof to jump on a record for one of my artists. I messed up and got really drunk, and didn’t phone. Not even 8 hours later I get the message Proof is gone.
I’m still somewhat in disbelief.
I’m not gonna front and say we were inseparably close buddies, but we built a lot over the 5 years we had been in contact. The first time we spoke was just before Devil’s Night dropped in the U.S, during a phone interview to promote the album my girl at Universal had organized. The problem was, I didn’t have any music to discuss nor any bio on the group at all. All I knew was Eminem, but Proof was on the phone.
So, instincts kicked in and we just freestyled the interview, I spoke about the Detroit artists I did know of, and the obvious change in style from say the old Detroit’s Most Wanted crew to Eminem, as well as the obvious complexion changes. Proof was instantly surprised I had heard of D.M.W and a few other acts I named. He wanted to know about what other Hiphop I was into, and we discussed several artists that we grew up listening to. The most prominent being Leaders of the New School, whom Proof had met in their prime via Maurice Malone and his Hiphop Shop where Proof and crew used to hang out and rap.
Proof was excited to know someone half a world away felt the same as him on a lot of Hiphop issues. Needless to say I was surprised someone of his caliber and stature in the game actually wanted to stay in touch. He gave me his two-way address, and at that time I had no idea what that was, I just thought of it as a crazy email address with a lot of numbers.
We stayed in touch, my editors were a little jaded because we didn’t do an ‘in depth’ interview (To them ‘in depth’ meant “Give us some dirt on Eminem”). We continued the interview via email. I would phone him on company time and money to talk, share opinions on certain music and artists, and Proof would offer me a lot of insight into the way certain people do what they do. In essence, he was a gate way into a lot of music industry culture I had never previously encountered. He was the main reason I started my own record label.
We would talk about starting an international one-stop. Dealing 12”s from new Detroit artists like King Gordy and Raw Collection, to even doing a Proof album thru the label while he was waiting on Iron Fist – his record label – to set it off. I tried to get him featured on Paris’ new album at the time - “Sonic Jihad” - he was excited to know Paris was doing a new project, and I believe they connected, but couldn’t work out a schedule.
We stayed in contact sporadically thru his adventures, thru the Promatic album, thru the second D12 album, thru The Eminem Show and his various tours. Constantly showing love, and support for things I was doing, and keeping me in the loop with his projects. Unfortunately, Big Proof never got the opportunity to actualize his visions, and achieve what he wanted to do to put MoTown back at the top.
Rest in Peace Proof, I’ll see you soon.
“Hey God, here I come tell Tupac to wait up” - “Bilboa’s Theme” from Proof's 2005 release Searching for Jerry Garcia.
Mark Thomson is the founder of 833 Records, based in Auckland, New Zealand. He is also a freelance journalist and former DJ. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, April 14, 2006
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