He competed in battles here and there, but he lead a new revolution in hip hop in Detroit because his city was gritty, rough and a place were hard work and manual labor were the order of the day...not much was thought of some cats that tried to be extra creative in that dreary environment. Out of that need for an outlet came the Hip Hop Shop and the movement that included Proof, Bugz, Slum Village, Eminem, Bizarre, Royce, Obie Trice, E- Dub, Trick Trick, Kon Artist. Swifty, Kuniva, Elzhi, Fat Kat, Que D, 5 Ela, Athletic Mic League, Binary Star and a host of other dope emcees who have come to influence hip hoppers the world over.
To this day when I hear a Swann, Elzhi, or Quest McCody murder a verse I think back to hearing old freestyle tapes in the back room at work when I managed the Tower Records on Newbury St. (1998). They spit with such hunger, like they were trying to make something out of nothing. Being from Boston, a city 220 miles from New York that doesn't even get recognized for having a thriving hip hop scene (forget that people STILL think that no minorities of any kind even live here!) I could relate to what they were doing. Around that same time this kid Eminem (who had appeared in The Source's Unsigned Hype section around that time) was making serious noise. Proof would talk about this guy any chance he got.
Heads figured he had to be ill...he ain't neva lied! Between Proof, Eminem, Bizarre (Bizarre Kid at the time), and Slum Village Detroit had a buzz going around the industry (1998/9). After Eminem's flurry of 12"s and his signing by Aftermath and the Bad Meets Evil single on Game featuring Royce the 5'9" it was on. After the Slum Village album dropped there was no going back.
The reason I made this blog is because as an emcee, it saddens me to know that there is yet another emcee that I/we admired and followed and rooted for to blow that we will never have a chance to meet and/or work with. I can never tell this cat that when he was grinding to put his city on the Hip Hop Map and his crew on the radar of The Industry, that we were listening to the tapes and reading the underground magazine interviews, etc. If Detroit blew, Boston had a chance to one day. Detroit was already known as Hitsville, U.S.A. but this was completely different, THIS WAS FOR HIP HOP.
Another reason I wrote this blog was because my grandfather had a saying "If you keep screaming for the Devil, he'll appear. If you keep asking for Death, he'll show up". In the event of 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G., they spoke about dying and being murdered repeatedly in their music. Next thing you know, they're both gone from the Earth. I remember the video for "Toy Soldiers" and how we were like "How come Proof is the one on the operating table that got shot in the video?" "I wouldn't even have gone there".
Now he's actually passed away and I hope NO ONE plays that damned video of "Toy Soldiers" as a tribute to his passing or for any other reason. There are so many emcees/DJ's and producers that passed that I get more and more depressed as I type their names: Jam Master Jay, Mausberg, Slang Ton, Big L, Freaky Tah, Q-Don, Big Pun, Pinkhouse, Poetic, J Dilla...it just seems I'm always saying "Rest In Peace" in reference to another hip hopper/emcee. It seems I have to do it again now. Damn.
Rest In Eternal Peace, Big Proof.
*This blog was originally written on April 11th, 2006 and posted on MySpace, BostonRap.com, BostonHipHopOnline.com, UndergroundHipHop.com, HipHopSite.com & HipHopDX*