Eminem Doubts He'd Be Eminem Without Slain Friend

April 14, 2006 — -- Eminem broke his silence over his slain best friend, calling fellow D-12 rapper Proof the "brother" who "pushed me to become who I am."

"Without Proof's guidance and encouragement, there would have been a Marshall Mathers, but probably not an Eminem and certainly never a Slim Shady," said the rapper in a statement on his Web site.

"Not a day will go by without his spirit and influence around us all. He will be missed as a friend, father and both the heart and ambassador of Detroit hip-hop."

Proof, whose real name is Deshaun Holton, was killed early Tuesday in a shooting at Detroit's CCC, a club along Eight Mile, the street made famous in Eminem's 2002 film, which loosely depicted his rise to fame.

Police say an argument broke out at the club on the night of the shooting, and that Proof fired the first shot, striking Keith Bender, 35, in the head and critically injuring him.

Investigators have not said if they have ascertained who fired the bullet that killed the 32-year-old rapper, who was taken by private vehicle to an outpatient treatment facility and pronounced dead.

'You Don't Know Where To Begin'

The killing comes just a week after Eminem filed for divorce from his wife, Kim, whom he had remarried just three months earlier, with Proof serving as his best man.

"You don't know where to begin when you lose somebody who's been such a big part of your life for so long," Eminem said in the statement on his Web site. " Proof and I were brothers."

"Not a day will go by without his spirit and influence around us all. He will be missed as a friend, father and both the heart and ambassador of Detroit hip-hop."

The two rappers had been friends since high school. Eminem, who was born Marshall Mathers, became serious about music at 14, but had been rejected by fellow rappers because of his race. "Proof was really the guy who got Eminem to be a rapper," Anthony Bozza, who wrote "Whatever You Say I Am," the Eminem biography, told ABC News Radio

Over the years, the two remained close. It was Proof's idea to form D12 -- the rap group to which they both belong.

"He really keeps only a few close people around him, so losing one of them is going to be completely devastating to him," Bozza said.

Proof's Place as Eminem's 'Future'

In "8 Mile," Eminem's semi-autobiographical movie, Proof's life was loosely depicted by Mekhi Phifer's character, the rapper Future.

"I had a lotta names, baby," Future says. "I used to be called Maximum, Brimstone, Godfather D. ... None of 'em worked, you-know-what-Ima-sayin'? Until one day someone said I was the future of hip-hop in Detroit. And that was it."

Proof took on the role of Lil Tic in that film, and can also be seen in several Eminem videos, including "Like Toy Soldiers," "Without Me," "The Real Slim Shady," as well as 50 Cent's "In Da Club." He raps on both D-12 albums, and released a solo CD in 2005, "Searching for Jerry Garcia."

While the shooting once again draws attention to hip-hop violence, Eminem is trying to keep the attention on his old friend.

"Right now, there's a lot of people focusing on the way he died," he said. "I want to remember the way he lived. Proof was funny, he was smart, he was charming. He inspired everyone around him. He can never, ever be replaced. He was, and always will be, my best friend."

ABC News Radio's David Blaustein contributed to this report.

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