Searching For Jerry Garcia
I first heard Proof on an MP3 called “justrhyminwithproof” in 1999. It was one of the first ten MP3’s I ever got my hands on, and at the time I was floored by an emcee called Eminem [the track used to be hosted on Em’s website]. At the time Em seemed like the most gifted lyricist possible, but Proof played off Em’s freestyling nigh flawlessly. I was certain I’d hear great things from him in the near future.
A few years later Proof blipped back onto my radar courtesy of a couple of D12 tracks. Proof and Eminem seemed like the two bright spots on otherwise distressing releases. Half of the rapping was gimmicky and the need to share the mic between six emcees always seems to end up with the one you’d truly like to hear spitting for no more than thirty seconds, or only performing the hook. In 2001, when D12’s Devil’s Night came out, I quickly discounted half of D12 as worthless and wondered when I’d see solo material from Proof and Swift to complement Eminem. Naturally Bizarre got a deal and heavier promotion while Proof’s mixtapes snuck under the radar and his solo album was delayed for several years.
Searching for Jerry Garcia returns Proof to the limelight he’s only seemed to graze in the past, where his flow outshines many of his peers and his grit and gangster are both believable and refreshingly transparent. Proof gets confessional [“Forgive Me,” featuring 50 Cent on the chorus], sounds honestly thankful for his talents [“Clap Wit Me,” which probably features the most infectious of a bevy of standout beats found on Garcia], and has fucking fun while rapping [“Ali” and “Pimplikeness”]. Even though he hasn’t been shot nine times, he’s easily as convincing as any of your favorite thug rappers, talking about “the block to the jail to the booth” so nonchalantly that you’d be hard pressed to say it wasn’t his regular morning commute. Proof is believable because his flow sounds the way you’d expect Detroit to sound: powerful, hungry, and like he’s always out to prove something. Even as he pours out his soul, Proof sounds like the only way he’ll get you to believe anything he says is if he throws in a little extra vitriol. On “Black Wrist Bro’s,” Proof delivers “it’s easy to be the coldest in life/but can you write your heart in a rhyme and spit your soul in a mic?” as if even he’s not sure yet, but will be by the album’s close.
The rest of the album runs the standard gamut of themes. Proof spends as much time enjoying life as he does repenting his errors, reigning in the album whenever it threatens to go too far from reality. Perhaps because so much of the material is so personal, or perhaps because he’s as shrewd as his lyrics, Proof commands his listeners’ attention where star power [50 Cent, B-Real, Method Man, and D12] could easily overshadow most emcees. On “Pimplikeness,” the track featuring D12 [and thus Eminem], it’s especially refreshing to hear Proof as the focus.
“Kurt Kobain” is an emotional closing track, a laundry list of confessions to his friends and family. While it’s not likely to be embraced the way Tupac’s “Dear Mama” has been, there’s vulnerability and honesty suffusing the track that most of Proof’s contemporaries can’t match. The whole of “Kurt Kobain” is delivered straight faced and with Proof’s head in the real world [though perhaps with a foot already in his grave] as he repeatedly says “I wish I could take it back, but it’s too late.” “Kurt Kobain” is the crowning achievement and natural result of the cross section of Proof’s persona proffered by the rest of the tracks. Searching For Jerry Garcia’s strenth grows with each repetition, following “Kobain”’s lead toward greatness.
Release date: August 9, 2005
Label: Iron Fist Records
Rating: 8.0 / 10
On the web: http://www.bigproof.com/
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