Some 2,000 people packed into Detroit's Fellowship Chapel on Wednesday (April 19) to mourn the death of D12's Proof.
The Detroit Free Press reports that lines wrapped around the block for the service, which started 45 minutes past its scheduled 11 a.m. start time due to the massive crowd.
Eminem, who broke down while giving a testimonial about his former hype man and close friend, wore a black suit and was seated behind the late rapper's family. "He taught me how to be a leader," the Free Press quoted Em as saying. "I'm sure everybody who has ever met him, even just once, can testify to the fact that he illuminated a room when he walked in it. I believe that Proof loved people and people loved him. ... Without Proof, there would be no Eminem, no Slim Shady, no D12."
Obie Trice, a Shady Records artist and friend of Proof, used the occasion to speak out against violence. "I want to talk to the black men in here that's coming up in the 'hood, coming up in the struggle," he reportedly said. "We're killing each other, dawg. And it's about nothing. Nothing. Nothing. We're all dying ... over nothing."
On Tuesday, the chapel hosted a viewing where more than 4,000 mourners paid their respects, many of them sporting T-shirts bearing the late rapper's likeness.
The Free Press reported that for many fans who attended the viewing, it was hard to see the popular Detroit MC lying motionless in his traditional outfit — a track suit, Kangol cap, jeans and Timberland-style boots — with a Detroit Pistons jersey (Chauncey Billups' number 1) signed by several players draped over his body. The casket was emblazoned with both his birth name, Deshaun D. Holton, and his rap handle in English script.
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The service took place just hours after the death of Keith Bender Jr., 35, the man police say was shot in the face by Proof during a shootout at Detroit's CCC nightclub on April 11 (see "Man Allegedly Shot By D12's Proof Dies"). According to police, Proof, 32, was shot once in the head and twice in the chest after firing on Bender following an early morning altercation at the after-hours club (see "D12's Proof Shot And Killed At Detroit Club"). Police allege that Bender's cousin, Mario Etheridge, shot and killed Proof; he was charged Friday with carrying a concealed weapon and discharging a firearm in a building (see "Proof Shooting Suspect Charged — But Not With Murder").
"We knew he was gone," Proof's good friend, rapper King Gordy, told the paper. "But when you see him now, it's like, 'Here goes a reality check.' Right now, Detroit has a black cloud over it." Also present at the viewing were Detroit rapper Paradime, "Wild 'N Out" cast member Carlos "Spanky" Hayes and D12 musical collaborator Luis Resto, according to the Detroit News, which reported that some attendees were struggling with accounts that Proof shot first in the deadly gun battle that ended his life.
"We all know in our hearts that isn't true," said Rob Black, who had known Proof for five years. Black said he got a tattoo that reads "R.I.P. Big Proof" on the right side of his neck over the weekend. "Now every day when I wake up, I'll see him," he said.
Greg Brown, who played guitar on several D12 tracks, said, "Today feels gloomy, even though it's sunny out."
And Marvwon of the Detroit rap crew Fat Killahz added, "It doesn't seem real. ... He was Superman. How do you kill Superman?"
On Monday night, some of Proof's friends, including Eminem and other members of D12, had a private viewing of the body.
D12's Bizarre, who did not make it to Monday's viewing, was brought into the church through a back entrance on Tuesday as staffers closed the doors to the public for about 10 minutes to give him privacy. As mourners shuffled by, two large video screens on either side of the pulpit showed a continuous loop of Proof in music videos and from concerts.
There was a heavy police presence both inside and outside the church, according to the Free Press, with about a dozen officers and private security staffers in the area.
"For the most part, everybody is taking it hard. Especially his mom," Proof's cousin, Kenneth Malone told the paper. "We're just trying to maintain. Once we get past this, we'll deal with it really. Right now we're just trying to do what we can for the public."
As people left the viewing, they were given a postcard-size handout — a picture of D12, without Eminem, on the front, and a story about Proof's life on the back. Several rappers who worked with Proof at his Detroit-based label, Iron Fist Records, said they planned to honor their comrade at his funeral Wednesday (April 19) by wearing Kangol caps and black T-shirts with a silk-screened image of Proof and the words "Big Proof Forever 1973-2006" on the back.