The big homie: Eminem
Unlike Bleek, Yayo, or Flav, rapper Proof was a prince of Detroit and a cypher icon of the Hip Hop Shop on Seven Mile Road. Proof was a year younger than Eminem, yet Proof's hometown clout predates Eminem's global infamy. “He pushed me to become who I am," Eminem said in 2006. "Without Proof’s guidance and encouragement there would have been a Marshall Mathers, but probably not an Eminem and certainly never a Slim Shady."
Modern Eminem is a rare veteran megastar who, Rihanna aside, does often seem unaccompanied and detached from hip-hop culture. But the Eminem of “Bad Meets Evil,” Devil's Night, and 8 Mile was just one of a humble few Detroit rappers who were putting on for their friends and their city as much as they were goofing for the sake of a national audience. Royce Da 5'9'', Obie Trice, Proof, Eminem, and D12 were Detroit's moment in the sun, though the moment was fleeting. While Royce would eventually reconcile with Eminem and establish a certain level of success with Slaughterhouse, Proof was gunned down on 8 Mile Road in April 2006, at the age of 32. Below, this old MTV footage of Proof and Em freestyling from the driver's side of the white boy's whooptie is a sort of fraternal wonder, just two best friends cracking jokes to a camera and doing what they do best. —Justin Charity