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I seem to be writing about Hip Hop quite often lately, but as I have just acquired this little known release I decided to review it as I give the album its first listen.
I hear most of you cry 'Who Is Proof?' Well I'll tell you. He is a former member of Eminem's rap group 'D12.' I say former member, because he is now deceased. Proof was killed in April 2006 after reportedly getting into a very heated arguement with a US military veteran over a game of pool. After a short scuffle, he shot the veteran and was then in turn shot by the victim's cousin who was a bouncer at the club. Such a stupid and wasteful end to the life and career of a really talented individual.
Proof featured on two D12 albums and was one of the stronger members, both in his talent for writing lyrics and in his style of delivery. He released two solo albums in the 1990s before D12 became successful, but this is his second studio album (so fourth overall) of the 21st century. It was released in 2005 and features cameos from several major names in Hip Hop, including Obie Trice, Nate Dogg, Method Man, B-Real and 50 Cent to name a few. The album is 20 tracks long and should take up just over an hour of your precious time and as of yet, I have no opinion on it, but as I progress through this review and listen to the tracks I will be sure to give you a strong one either way. I await expectantly, with baited breath. So... Let's Begin...
=== The Album ===
[Track 1 - Knice]
This skit opens the album, a mock-up award ceremony opens with a speech which lists many artist's names, many of which are affiliated with Proof. He talks over this skit periodically and the speech climaxes with the introduction of Proof and a snippet of the tune from 'Purple Pills.'
[Track 2 - Clap Wit' Me]
The album chimes into live slowly with a soulful opening which switches into quite a cool bassline centred beat and Proof starts spitting with some rhythm and evident talent. The track sounds quite good and the choruses allow the tempo to temporarily subside and balance the energy of the verses very nicely. Definitely one to nod your head to.
[Track 3 - Biboa's Theme]
A bizarre distorted organ sample opens up this track in a rather confusing manner and never quite leaves the beat. the drums are good but I'm not too fond of the sample. The rapping from Proof is pretty competent and tempers what I see as a bad beat to make the song bearable. the refreshing thing is that Proof has the talent to carry the track almost alone and doesn't always have guests to back him up and handle some of the verses.
[Track 4 - When God Calls...]
This is a 30 second skit which continues the beat from the previous track and details a quick coversation including Proof and cuts to an Emergency Room with doctors trying to resuscitate somebody, presumably Proof.
[Track 5 - Forgive Me]
The first guest to appear on the album is none other than Curtis 'I got shot 8 times so that means I deserve to rap about it for 10 years' Jackson A.K.A. 50 Cent. the track opens with a melodic piano, fairly reminiscent of Eminem's more thoughtful and mature tracks. The beat remains mellow and the drums are well judged in terms of strength and volume. I'm stunned that 50 Cent is singing during the chorus and it doesn't even sound that bad. However, it does appear to be the same chorus which is used in his old song 'Ghetto Qu'uran.' Proof raps very well, especially in his second verse and against my better judgement, I quite like this so it's getting a good score.
Best Lyrics - Proof
And most importantly, I'm tryna support my seeds
Can't seem to get away from them court and fees
Embroidery of my hood across my heart disorderly
Breakin' in houses of people who ain't got more than me
[Track 6 - Purple Gang]
The beat starts with a quite powerful and bouncy distorted bassline with a pretty decent rhythm but not the easiest sound on the ears. The song's decent and the chorus is so typically Hip Hop. The verses don't actually feature Proof but he does introduce the first verse and I think he is singing along in the chorus aswell. the vocalists are 'Purple Gang' so I imagine this track is just a showcase for them.
[Track 7 - Nat Morris]
Another 30 second skit, which takes the form of a TV game show presenter talking to the crowd and it leads straight into the next track.
[Track 8 - Gurls wit' da Boom]
The beat is very processed and the drums are pretty smooth. The lyrics are decent and they are delivered in a style that reminds of 80s 'eye-patch toting MC, Slick Rick.' The chorus is very simple and quite a poor hook really but as Proof is back on the mic, there are pros and cons. The lyrics work pretty well, and whilst not the most intelligent piece of poetry I have evr come across, they work as far as the track goes.
[Track 9 - High Rollers]
A very funk-inspired beat from the outset and the first verse opens with B-Real of Cypress Hill with a pretty tight effort. The chorus has a neat trick of B-Real singing one line, then proof the next line and the other guest, method Man from Wu Tang Clan singing the next and the cycle is repeated. Proof does the second verse, but it is a pretty basic one in comparison to some of his better ones. As I expected, Method's verse is the best by a way and considerably ups the score of this track.
Best Lyrics - Method Man
Tical, motherfucker, run for cover when shit fly
One hand is on the lighter, other hand's on your b**ch thigh
How many wanna try? Mr Meth and his clique, yes
This kinda far fetched like passing a piss test
Okay, let's B-Real, here's the Proof, we need cash flow
Might catch me in the movie lighting up in the back row, fo' sho
[Track 10 - Rondell Beene]
The track opens with some crazy guy who the skit is named after alking about how he 'doesn't discriminate' because he kills men, women, pets, etcetera. He goes on for about 90 seconds and I have I feeling that this is Proof performing an impression as I have heard the very same voice on D12 tracks.
[Track 11 - Pimplikeness]
This is the only track that features the full complement of D12. A stylish beat which is really simple but allows the verses to become more important. the first verse in decent and comes from proof's pen, He and Eminem then sing the chorus together. The other four verses come from Kuniva, Swift Mcveigh, eminem then Bizarre, interspersed with a couple more choruses. The song has a gimmick where any strong word with an 'I' in it is dragged out. (eg/ Piiiiiiiiimp) the verses are all fairly good but D12 have made very similar tracks which dwarf this in quality.
Best Lyrics - Kuniva
Now whadda you tell a chick who has two black eyes
You ain't gotta tell her nothin', you just told her twice
And I don't wanna put my hands on ya, I got a plan fo' ya
Get with my mans, he gonna lay a couple grand on ya
[Track 12 - Ali]
This track features 'MC Breed' as a guest. He is a veteran rapper from Michigan who apparently has released 13 albums so far, although I've never heard of him. Being a Hip-Hop fan, I'd say this is a bad omen. The beat is pretty laboured and not even that good. Breed is ok, nothing more though, overall this track is pretty mediocre.
[Track 13 - No T. Lose]
The beat is pretty fast on this track, from the outset. The rapping follows suit and the pacey spitting from proof sounds really impressive and appropriate. He raps so well it makes this song worthy of note, one of the better tracks and there have been a few good ones so far. the track title is shorthand for 'Nothing To Lose.'
Best Lyrics - Proof
Sittin' in Hell with a blunt and ice cube
Plottin' with Satan to snatch God's light view
Didn't like school, I never liked you
I'm burning Bible's while I'm sniffing on this white glue
Fight dudes, black to white fools..
That act cocky, I'm Rocky, shit I might lose
But I got it, I'm 'bout it, 'bout it, I'm about it
Loan me your life, or see Christ without it
[Track 14 - Jump Biatch]
The beat has some very antagonistic drums which make the song quite an intrusive sound but that is sometimes a biproduct of heavier hip hop tracks. The chorus is simple and is just the song title repeated what feels like a million times. Proof raps reasonably but the vocals are nothing remarkable really.
[Track 15 - M.A.D.]
This track features 'Rude Jude' who is a TV chat show guest and featured on Kanye West's 'Heavy Hitters' track. The beat is really good on this track, it sounds great and the bassline is very likeable. Some of the lyrics are direct but I have never really been one to by bothered by a bit of honesty. The verses are pretty funny and also sound pleasing, a nice pace to them and a bit of messing about. This track has made me smirk quite a few times. Rude Jude is a really good addition to this track as he just berates many people in between Proof's lines. I definitely CANNOT put the best lyrics up for this one, far too rude!!
[Track 16 - 72nd and Central]
The beat is another minimal job although it sounds decent and gives the track a decent rhythm. Obie Trice and J-Hill guest on the track and this is the first time I have heard the latter. Overall the track is just average, it doesn't break new ground so doesn't really have much chance of becoming memorable.
[Track 17 - Sammy Da Bull]
This track features hip hop crooner Nate Dogg and D12's Swift Mcveigh. The title refers to 'Salvatore Gravano' and was his nickname. Gravano was an informant for the FBI and at one time a mafiosi. He helped the FBI bring infamous mob leader 'John Gotti' to justice. About the track... The drums are instantly noticeable and pretty punding. Nate Dogg does his usually job and sings the intro and chorus in his very familiar and instantly recognisable style. Proof spits two verses, Swift has one in the middle and they are all of a realtively good standard. The song isn't actually about Sammy the Bull, but more about snitches/grasses in general, although he is referenced in Swift's verse.
[Track 18 - Black Wrist Bros.]
The track opens with a quick vocal soundbite which I just can't find out where it's from. the beat is one of the best so far and enables are really clinical flow from the rappers. The guest is '1st Born' and his verses are equal to Proof's if not better sometimes. The verses are short, only 8 bars each so both vocalists have 3 verses each and they all work well, especially together. The rhymes flow thick and fast and the beat captured me so I couldn't help but bounce along a little bit. Another one that I really like.
[Track 19 - Slum Elementz]
This track features T3 & Mudd who are more Detroit rappers that are new to me. The song is quite similar to a few others on the track. The verses are acceptable and I have heard many, many worse in my time. The song features another obviously processed beat. Think Proof had tins of them in his kitchen cupboards. I can see the merits of this track but there are a few elemnts which make me not so impressed by it.
[Track 20 - Kurt Kobain]
This track features a sample which was actually created by Proof's father when he was a record producer in 1970s Detroit. This track opens with quite a thoughtful and calm beat which suggest an honest 'hard knock life' life story track is coming. As it happens, I'm right and Proof explains some of his life from a quite creative album. the title is a reference to Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain and incidentally, his suicide in 1994 and the verses of this track echo the sentiments as Proof structures the track as if he is contemplating his life as he writes a suicide note. I was quite impressed with the depth of this idea and it shows that Proof was not just an aggravated gangster rapper and actually was affected in many ways by his life of turmoil, not just angry but very pensive and emotional. i was impressed with the track's idea, it's content is good aswell although the style of beat is a little unoriginal.
I can safely say i'm satisfied with this album, happy even. I will get the negatives out of the way first... Some people may but put of by some of the lyrics/content so if you have zero tolerance for violence, sex, drugs, criminality and general misdemeanours then I'd advise you to avoid this. A couple of the tracks are a bit disappointing and at times a few of the lyrics seem a little uninspired.
However, the negatives are unimportant overall and really only apply to certain demographics. As far rap goes, this album is a very good one. Proof isn't afraid to test his skills with quick beats and like his compatriot Eminem, he is very candid about his life's details. The guests mostly pull a performance out of the bag and even the smaller names make a decent impact on their tracks. The album's production is fairly varied with a total of fourteen different producers for the beats.
The best tracks in my opinion are 'Clap Wit Me,' 'Forgive Me,' 'No T. Lose,' 'M.A.D.' and 'Black Wrist Brothers.' I would say all of these tracks are quality songs individually and they are all going straight onto my Ipod after I finish this review. Overall, the good tracks are frequent and the weak ones are just one skip away from the next decent track. I have been nicely impressed by this release and am glad that I found this album due to Proof's passing. In retrospect, it's a shame that he ended up being killed as it was a waste of a very talented MC.
'Searching For Jerry Garcia' refers to the long-serving and now deceased frontman of the band 'Grateful Dead.' The album itself can be bought in many versions. The full, untouched version is currently £24 on Play.com but an edited version is available for £14 and the album can be downloaded for under £8. It is available on Amazon.co.uk for as little as £4 used. the album cover is good aswell. It features a very detailed drawing of Proof hugging a skeleton, possibl that of the deceased Garcia.
I would recommend this album to any hip hop fan, especially fans of D12 or similar artists. Personally, I am pleased to have come across it and expect some of you reading this will be too. It is not for everyone but if rap is something you like then I expect Proof's album will also fit into the same category. Buy it, cos he won't be making any new albums.
Also posted on www.ciao.co.uk
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Clap Wit Me
3 Biboa's Theme
4 When God Calls...
5 Forgive Me - 50 Cent, , Proof
6 Purple Gang
7 Nat Morris
8 Gurls Wit da Boom
9 High Rollers - B Real, Method Man, , Proof,
10 Rondell Beene
11 Pimplikeness - D12, , , Proof
12 Ali - MC Breed, , Proof
13 No. T. Lose - King Gordy, , Proof
14 Jump Biatch
15 M.A.D. - Proof, Rude Jude
16 72nd & Central - J-Hill, , , Proof, Obie Trice
17 Sammy da Bull - Nate Dogg, Swifty McVay, , Proof
18 Black Wrist Bro's - First Born, , Proof
19 Slum Elementz - Mudd, , Proof, T3,
20 Kurt Kobain
Disc #2 Tracklisting