D12's Proof Channels Jerry Garcia

Eminem's main man namechecks Garcia, Cobain, with help from 50

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While recording his solo debut, D12 rapper Proof found inspiration in an unlikely person -- the late jam rocker Jerry Garcia.

"I was watching Searching for Bobby Fisher and Mark Hicks [D12's manager] put in a Jerry Garcia documentary," says Proof, who also serves as Eminem's right-hand rapper. "In this movie, he talked about never doing the same show twice. I did that to D12 sets overseas. Plus, he didn't care about record sales -- he just wanted to make fans happy."

In a nod to their similarities, Proof, born Deshaun Holton, named his debut Searching for Jerry Garcia. The album drops August 9th, the tenth anniversary of Garcia's death, on Proof's independent label Iron Fist Records. "I called his estate, and I couldn't believe they gave me permission [to use the name]!" says the rapper. "They didn't ask for money. So I'm like a disciple, preaching the gospel of Jerry Garcia. The dude is phenomenal."

Besides Garcia, Proof also gives a shout-out to Nirvana's late frontman in Searching's closing track, "Kurt Kobain"[sic]. "The circumstances of Kurt's death are freaky to me. I don't think he killed himself," Proof says. "But I'm not trying to keep Elvis alive, and I'm not saying that Tupac is in Cuba."

Searching includes guest appearances by D12, 50 Cent, Method Man, Slum Village, Shady Records' Obie Trice and Cypress Hill's B-Real, who also serves as a producer. Proof explains that the collaborations were organic and low key. "There are only a few people in this hip-hop world that are levelheaded and grounded: B-Real, Ice-T, Method Man and Redman," he says. "I just asked them, and we went to somebody's house to record."

Proof, who is already thinking about a follow-up as well as D12's third album, says that releasing Searching has been a nerve-wrecking venture. "It's a long time coming. I'm very nervous because of the perception of the group we run with -- there's a lot of pressure," he says of his D12 and hip-hop superstars Eminem and 50 Cent. "I'm not sweating it, though."

Proof is currently on the road with the Anger Management 3 tour featuring Eminem, D12, 50 Cent and G-Unit, and Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz. The rapper says the tour reinforces what he has known for seven years. "Me and Eminem have wonderful chemistry, and we have wonderful songs."