Proof formed D12 as a rap collective of local Detroit MC's including Bizarre, Eminem, Eye-Kyu, Killa Hawk, Fuzz Scoota, and Proof. The group was a loose collective in the vein of Wu-Tang Clan. The original concept of D12 was to have 12 of Detroit's most talented rappers. However, Eminem, Proof, Eye-Kyu, Bizarre and the other members at the time were unable to find 12 rappers who were good enough. Proof decided, in order to have 12, the six members would each create an alter-ego. Proof chose Dirty Harry. At some point afterwards, most-likely early 1997, Eminem created the Slim Shady concept. Bizarre became Peter S. Bizarre. Kuniva became Hannz G., which later became Rondell Beene. Denaun became Kon Artis. Bugz became Robert Beck. During 1997, and continuing throughout 1998, several members began making names for themselves in Detroit. Bizarre was named Inner City Entertainment's "Flava of the Week". He went on to release an album called Attack of the Weirdos and become an honorary member of The Outsidaz with Eminem, Rah Digga and Young Zee. Proof won a freestyling competition run by The Source in 1998.
Before the group had any success, Killa Hawk and Fuzz left the group. Fuzz in particular did not get along well with Proof (according to Eminem in his book Angry Blonde). D12 went through many changes during its beginning stages – leaving only four official members: Proof, Bizarre, Eminem and Eye Kyu for a long while. Eminem then later left to pursue his solo career after being heard by Dr. Dre. D12 temporarily stopped. The reason was that Eminem was concentrating on his own music. Right about when Eminem got a deal, Proof decided to gather up the group members and carry on D12. Proof was set to find other local rappers to join the group. Proof managed to pick up local Detroit hip hop duo Da Brigade to join. Da Brigade featured longtime Eminem and Proof friend Kon Artis, who also produced Eminem's first album Infinite. The other half of Da Brigade was formed by local MC Kuniva. Kon Artis was just the producer for D12 at the time, but was later convinced to join D12 as an artist after his partner Kuniva decided to join the Dirty Dozen. Kuniva then introduced Bugz Pitts to Proof who later joined the group. Bizarre again joined, but Eye Kyu had decided not to. D12 were in need of one more member, until Bugz asked to have his long time friend Swifty, who at the time was already a member of the rap duo Da Rabeez to join.
The first member of the group to achieve solo success was Eminem. After he recorded an independent EP called The Slim Shady EP in 1997 that caught the attention of famed rap producer Dr. Dre and Interscope CEO Jimmy Iovine, and he was quickly signed to Aftermath/Interscope. Eminem stuck to his pact, and Dr. Dre once stated that while making The Slim Shady LP, his debut album, he kept insisting that he go back to sign the others. Dr. Dre told him to first establish himself as a solo artist, then go back for his friends.
In 1999 he released his hit debut The Slim Shady LP and quickly rose to super stardom as The Slim Shady LP went on to sell four million copies in the United States. Having taken Dre's advice, he had established himself as a solo artist and decided it was time to gather his friends. As a way to establish D12, he created Shady Records under the Interscope imprint. He then made D12 the first act to be signed to Shady/Interscope Records. The group toured with Eminem after they signed with Shady Records.
Before a show in Detroit, D12 member Bugz attended a picnic which resulted in him being assaulted. Bugz argued with a man over a water-pistol fight. As the argument escalated, the man went to his SUV and retrieved a firearm which he then fired in Bugz's direction. Bugz was shot three times and hit by the assailant's vehicle as he fled the scene. The attack, which took place on May 21, 1999, was caught on tape and shown on the local news later that night.
D12 was shaken by the incident, darkening the light mood of the rap collective. One of the last things Bugz had asked Proof was to allow Swifty to join D12. Unfortunately, a few weeks after Swift joined, Bugz was killed, and the rest of D12 couldn't cope and started to believe it was over. After Bugz's death, Eminem asked if he could substitute for Bugz to help them out and do some shows with them which they were booked for prior to Bugz's death. This eventually led to Eminem becoming a member of D12 again.
In memory of Bugz, the group recorded the track "Good Die Young" on their second album D12 World. The album also included a song titled "Bugz '97", which was a 1997 recording of Bugz, originally from the song 'Desperados'. All five members of D12 bear a tattoo of his name somewhere on their bodies in remembrance of him. The group recorded their first LP Devil's Night in his memory. Eminem's second album The Marshall Mathers LP was also dedicated to Bugz.
The group has released two albums, Devil's Night and D12 World. Both albums debuted at number one on the Billboard music charts in the U.S. and topped the charts in many other countries. The two albums' hit singles included "Purple Pills", "Fight Music", "My Band", and "How Come".
In August 2001, D12 and Esham were kicked off the Warped Tour after members of the group allegedly physically attacked Esham over the lyrics of his song "Chemical Imbalance," which contained a reference to Eminem's daughter. Eminem was not present during the tour.
The group was often overshadowed by Eminem's massive success, and toured without him for the second album while Eminem was busy recording Encore. Although shadowed by Eminem's success, other members Bizarre and Proof managed to prevail with mildly successful solo careers with the releases of Hannicap Circus and Searching for Jerry Garcia in 2005. D12 (minus Eminem) appeared on Tech N9ne's 2002 album entitled Absolute Power on the track "She-Devil". They also decided that Eminem would not be as prominent on their upcoming third album, which remains evident even after Proof's death. Their third album is estimated to be 70% completed with yet any input from Eminem. However in June 2009 Eminem confirmed he was also working hard on the groups 3rd studio album on a announcement made on Rap city during a interview with Eminem and Mr. Porter.
On April 11, 2006, Proof died after suffering a gunshot wound to the head at approximately 4:30am EDT (08:30 UTC) at the CCC Club on 8 Mile Road in Detroit, Michigan, after fatally shooting Keith Bender, Jr. Proof fired the first shots into Bender's head after taking his pistol and striking Bender several times in the face. The eruption is suspected to have been due to an argument over a game of pool. Proof was then shot by the bouncer Mario Etheridge, Bender's cousin. He was then taken by private vehicle to St. John Health's Conner Creek Campus, an outpatient emergency treatment site, and was pronounced dead on arrival shortly thereafter. Exact details of his death and the events that led to it remain unclear.
He was buried on April 19 in The Fellowship Chapel, Detroit, to a full house of 2,000 with thousands mourning outside. Eminem and Obie Trice read eulogies at the service. An excerpt from Eminem's speech: "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. He was a magnet. He lured you in. You wanted to learn about him, follow his swagger. Without Proof, there would be no Eminem, no Slim Shady, and no D12." Many rap artists offered their condolences to Proof's family after the passing. Proof is survived by his mother Sherallene; father McKinley; wife Sharonda; sons DeShaun Rice and Elijha Abel; and daughters Katieva Walker, Nassan, and Nyeem.
On April 21, 2006, Swifty was arrested in Novi, Michigan, after he failed to appear in court. He skipped the court date to attend fallen group-member Proof's funeral, where he served as an honorary pallbearer. Swift was on probation from a drunk-driving case and served two days in jail in October 2005 for failing a drug-test when they found alcohol in his blood stream. Swift was sentenced by District Court Judge Brian MacKenzie to 93 days in jail for violating terms of his probation. His incarceration stalled the recording process of D12's third album, and prevented him from appearing in magazine interviews or being reached for comment on Proof's death. He was then released and worked on the third D12 album.
Their debut album, Devil's Night, referring to the old Detroit tradition of setting abandoned buildings on fire the night before Halloween, was released in June 2001. It debuted at number one on the U.S. and British charts, also reaching the top of the Canadian charts. Devil's Night went on to sell four million albums worldwide and two million in the U.S. It featured the following hit singles:
- "Purple Hills" (the clean version of "Purple Pills") reached the top twenty on the Billboard 100 and number one on the rap tracks charts in 2001 as well as number two in the UK and the top ten in Australia.
- "Shit on You" reached the British top ten and the Canadian top five.
- "Fight Music", featuring Ice T, Angie Martinez, Fat Joe,in its music video, reached the British top twenty and the Australian top forty.
The group's second album was D12 World released on April 27, 2004, featuring production by Dr. Dre, Eminem, Kon Artis and Kanye West, and guest appearances by Obie Trice on the track "Loyalty", and B-Real of Cypress Hill on the track "American Psycho II". It debuted at the top of the U.S., UK, and Australian album charts, and number two in Germany — selling over half a million records in its first week of release in the U.S. alone. "My Band", the album's first single, was also successful reaching number one in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. rhythmic top forty, the top five in the UK and Germany, and the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100.
The members of the group have also, on occasion, turned to acting. Eminem is the lead actor in 8 Mile and has a cameo appearance in The Wash, while Proof also appears in 8 Mile as a freestyle rapper called "Lil' Tic". The group (without Eminem) appear in 2005's The Longest Yard credited as "Basketball Convicts" although at one point Eminem can be heard rapping about football while the convicts are practicing. The group recorded the song "My Ballz" for The Longest Yard soundtrack.
D12 member Eminem was set to star in a new film, as of 2006, titled Have Gun — Will Travel, a modernized remake of the 1957 cowboy western television series of the same name. The rest of the group was previously stated to be producing and starring in two movies, one titled Devil's Night — a horror film, and another titled Runyon Cash — about growing up in the streets of Detroit. Since this statement however, there has been no official word about these releases. The movie has now been delayed until 2010.