Murder by Numbers

Mourning the latest hip-hop casualty in two easy steps

Thank you for purchasing the How to Write a Phat Hip-hop Eulogy starter kit. Enclosed you will find the following:

• Ten sample eulogies, including those used to mourn rap superstars such as the Notorious B.I.G., Jam Master Jay, Old Dirty Bastard and more!

• Fifty inspiring ready-to-use lyrical quotations. Sample (from Dr. Dre's "What's the Difference?"): "Eazy, I'm still wit you / Fuck the beef, nigga, I miss you / And that's just bein' real wit you."

• A free collector's edition R.I.P. [insert name here] T-shirt with erasable calligraphy pen.

• A short primer on hip-hop funeral etiquette. Includes tips on pouring out liquor (spill only premium licks for A-list artists like Tupac; any screw-cap malt liquor will do for rabble like Soulja Slim) as well as a fold-out calendar with helpful hints on how to plan your retaliatory killing.

• Eulogy template capable of handling all the expired rappers on your list!

Good. Now let's get started. After all, another hip-hop artist will be dead before you finish reading this sentence. (Damn, there went one of the guys from Three Six Mafia.) We'll begin with the basic eulogy template to help you organize your thoughts:

Real name: DeShaun Holton

Stage name(s): Proof, Big Proof, Dirty Harry.

Reppin': Detroit.

Playas: Eminem, D12, Obie Trice, Dr. Dre, 50 Cent, G-Unit.

Hatas: Insane Clown Posse, Murder Inc., Benzino, surly bouncers at sketchy Detroit nightclubs.

Albums: D12: Devil's Night (2001), D12 World (2004). Solo: Searching for Jerry Garcia (2005). Various basement tapes and compilation records. Inevitable posthumous album sure to come.

Personal record label: Iron Fist Records.

Movies: 8 Mile (as "Lil' Tic"), The Longest Yard (as "basketball convict").

He/she got their start: Hosting and participating in freestyle battles at the Hip-Hop Shop in Detroit.

Time of death: April 11, 2006, 4:30 a.m.

Place: Triple C Club, 8 Mile Road, Detroit.

Method (e.g., gun, knife, chain saw, hot grits, autoerotic asphyxiation): Multiple gunshots.

His/her death was a) senseless; b) untimely; c) fodder for right-wing parasites to chastise hip-hop: Yes, you betcha, tune in to Fox News.

His/her death will a) be remembered by next Thursday; b) boost record sales; c) inspire a tribute song: Maybe, probably, without a doubt.

He/she went out like a) a soldier; b) a limp-wristed Sally; c) anybody else hear that loud bang? Soldier. If (allegedly) pistol-whipping someone, then shooting them in the head while they're on the ground just seconds before you catch a few yourself is soldierly.

Why this hip-hop death is different: He shot first.

Good. Now you're ready to put the "fun" back into "funeral." Using the lessons in this starter kit, you're guaranteed to be the life of the afterlife party or your money back! Go ahead, give it your best shot (so to speak):

Ahem.

DeShaun Holton was many things to many people. He was a devoted forefather to Detroit hip-hop, talented musician to his fans and loyal friend to his, uh, friends. Others knew him as Mekhi Phifer's character in 8 Mile, the third verse on "Purple Pills" or, most commonly, That Guy Standing Next to Eminem.

To me, he was just Proof.

The only member of D12 anyone recognized who wasn't blond or the chubby dude from Celebrity Fit Club. But let's be honest. There's no way D12 sells a shit ton of records, plays arena tours and gets the money shot on the cover of Rolling Stone without Angry White Boy No. 1.

Then again, Marshall Mathers would probably be slinging M&Ms at the Circle K right now if not for Proof and the gang. After all, it was Proof who befriended Eminem during the epic freestyle battles at the Hip-Hop Shop later immortalized in 8 Mile. The truth is, nobody buys ivory in this business unless it's surrounded by some credible ebony. And, a long time before Dr.-Dre-Come-Lately solidified Slim Shady's hip-hop cred, there was Bizarre, Kuniva, Kon Artis, Swifty and Proof.

D12 is -- or at least was -- the self-deprecating cheese to Eminem's cracker in a genre dominated by opulent posturing and mean muggin'. 50 Cent would gladly take nine more bullets before you'd see him and G-Unit sashaying on MTV in mariachi costumes. But as hilarious as the video for "My Band" was, the song underscored D12's frustration with being a side act of the Eminem Show.

By all accounts, Marshall and DeShaun were close. Proof was even the best man at Eminem's ill-advised re-wedding a few months back. But he nevertheless spent his moments in the spotlight lingering in the shadow of a lunar eclipse.

Proof was considered one of the best hype men in the game -- a somewhat dubious honor akin to being the fastest tire changer in Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s pit crew -- but he was no slouch with a microphone either. His gritty flow -- more Wu-Tang than Motown -- earned him props from The Source and the now defunct Blaze magazine back when most people thought "D12" was the number that sunk their battleship.

Even after he hit the limelight, Proof wasn't your run-of-the-mill charity case hanging on to a famous friend's bootstraps just so that superstar could provide proof, as it were, that he remembered where he came from.

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