Eminem’s best friend and D12 rapper, Proof, was a household name concerning Detroit hip-hop. In fact, it was Proof who introduced Em to the concept of performing live. Eminem (real name Marshall Mathers) met Proof in high school and already loved LL Cool J. However, he only considered emceeing once he met his late D12 counterpart. Proof (real name DeShaun Holton) died in 2006 but had eerily predicted his demise prior.
In an appearance on the Hotboxin’ with Mike Tyson podcast, Mathers spoke about the early days of his career and delved into the details of his time in Detroit before getting picked up by Dr Dre. The ‘My Name Is’ artist even admitted being afraid to perform.
As he elaborated on his paranoia, he revealed, “I was afraid to go to any clubs or anything like that to say my raps because I felt like I wasn’t good enough yet. So I had to get to a certain spot. I was just making songs, and one day I got a call from my boy Proof, and he was like, ‘Yo, you need to come up to the Hip Hop Shop'”
The ‘Stan’ musician continued, “And I was like, ‘What is the Hip Hop Shop?’ And he’s like, ‘Yo, just come to the Hip Hop Shop. Write something, come up here.’ We came up rapping together…Proof was out there on the grind, and he started making connections. Then he met J Dilla from Slum Village and a lot of the early Detroit hip-hop that was exploding onto the scene!”
As high school friends, Holton was the individual who introduced Mathers to the Hip-Hop Shop, a Detroit venue that regularly held rap battles, and Eminem was a permanent fixture at the venue from the minute he walked in. However, with such a tight bond, the two artists didn’t just want to pursue solo careers; they also wanted to have a collaborative project. As such, they formed D12, a supergroup comprised of Eminem, Proof, Bizarre, Mr Porter, Kuniva and Swifty McVay. The collective were known for their horrorcore, rock-infused hip-hop.
However, in one of their 2004 tracks, ’40 Oz,’ Holton predicted his own death. On the Trackboyz-produced beat, the Detroit artist rapped, “I’m in the club to beef, you gotta murder me there.” Furthermore, in the video for Mathers’ ‘Toy Soldiers,’ Proof played a rapper who was shot dead in a club. However, in 2006, Proof was shot three times by Mario Etheridge at a pool club on 8 Mile Road in Detroit.
Holton’s death sent Mathers into a depression which culminated in a relapse. In a 2022 interview with XXL, Mathers recalled, “When the thing happened with Proof, and my addiction went through the fuckin’ roof. I remember just after Proof died, I was in my house by myself, and I was just laying in bed, and I couldn’t move, and I just kept staring at the ceiling fan. And I just kept taking more pills. I literally couldn’t walk for two days when that happened, and eventually, my drug use fuckin’ skyrocketed.”
You can listen to ’40 Oz’ in the video below.