Proof is revered in certain hip-hop circles about as much as Vanilla Ice at a Black Panther party reunion. Love him or hate him, the platinum-selling drama-filled emcee has finally released a solo album — facilitated by the production heroics of Davina, House Shoes, Amp Fiddler, and DJ Premier — that makes us remember why he was once Source Magazine’s unsigned hype phenom, Blaze Magazine’s battle champion, and was regarded as the fiercest battle rapper to saunter the streets of Detroit
By design, this is an “underground” CD, and the coarse hardcore beats play catcher to Proof’s lyrical fastballs. Opener “E And 1 Equal None” sees a bomb obnoxiously lobbed at longtime local adversary Esham: “When you and ya brother was on, ya’ll was on top. It’s over with, no more acid rap, nobody wants to hear that bullshit.” In “Derty Harry” Proof tackles worldly fare and spits: “Fuck Osama for bombing and erasing buildings/I bust him and hide him like I was Jayson Williams.” The emcee kicks the tempo up a notch on “Yzark”: “Jigga and Nelly is cool, it’s the wack ones that’s killing me/while Clinton was getting head, I was in the sack with old Hillary.”
The rapper claims that fame ain’t important in head-nodder “Neil Armstrong,” reminds other emcees to worry about themselves in “Broken,” says it’s all about the lyrics over an accordion hook in “It Ain’t About Tha,” and verbally cracks heads between the guitar licks in “Bring it to Me.”
Elsewhere, the D12er strikes out on the horrendous “Shake Dat Donkey,” while “Runnin Yo Mouth” suffers from a bland, corny chorus. The hackneyed “Cross Tha Line” could be a bad James Bond movie score. At the bottom, “You Know How 2” and “Know Ya Name” work the stale I-am-rapper-give-me-head archetypal rap template.
On the other hand, “Love Letter” defies Proof’s hardcore persona with shout-outs to friends and family; here the rapper summons up rare humility, and the tune is uncharacteristically sentimental and welcome.
In the end, the question of the year is this: Why must we be dealt D-12’s corny, flaccid schtick when the lyrical wit and varied subject matter of I Miss The Hip Hop Shop come up, for the most part, aces high?
E-mail Kahn Davison at email@example.com.