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Before he was an award-winning rapper, Eminem was an up-and-coming emcee in the Detroit area dreaming of being a star. He, along with his friend Proof, imagined life as a hit-making rapper and taking each other along for the ride. So when Proof died in 2006, Eminem was left heartbroken over the death of his friend and struggling with a worsening drug addiction.

Eminem, who was friends with Detroit rapper Proof, performing at the Super Bowl
Eminem | Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Eminem’s drug addiction started in the early 2000s

Eminem recounted his experience of drug addiction in the early 2000s in a 2022 interview with XXL. He admitted that he was able to conceal his addiction at first before it became more noticeable when he was on stage.

“People obviously didn’t know it yet, but I was starting to realize inside that it was happening, and I always tried to keep it on the low and keep it together as much as I could,” he said.

“I was able to downplay my addiction and hide it for a while until it got really bad,” he said, noting the beef between 50 Cent and Ja Rule that resulted in Eminem getting sucked in. “I’m coming off The Marshall Mathers LP and going into Encore when my addiction started to get bad. I was taking Vicodin, Valium, and alcohol. I kinda fell off the map a little bit and didn’t explain why I went away.” He remembered an appearance on 106 & Park with 50 Cent and G-Unit where 50 had to speak for him because he couldn’t understand a word the hosts were saying.

“Then I started taking Ambien on top of everything else,” he continued. “I would take a little to perform, which you would think doesn’t make sense, but Ambien is a mind eraser. So, if you don’t go to sleep on it, you get in this weird comatose state. I see what you’re saying, and I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t comprehend. If you watch back to that interview now, you can notice it. That’s when everyone around me knew, ‘He’s f***ed up. Something’s wrong with him.'”

Proof’s death made Eminem’s addiction worse

Eminem continued to battle drug addiction throughout the early and mid-2000s. He won an Academy Award for his song “Lose Yourself” from his movie 8 Mile, which was loosely based on his life. His longtime friend Proof had a cameo in the movie.

When Proof was shot and killed in 2006, Eminem had a hard time recovering from the loss.

“When I wrap it up in a nutshell, I realize that all the heaviest drug usage and addiction spanned only about five years of my life. It’s crazy for me to think back. It felt like a long time when it was happening, but looking back at it now, it wasn’t that long of a time for my problem to explode as it did,” he said. “Then the thing happened with Proof and my addiction went through the f***in’ roof. I remember just after Proof died, I was in my house by myself, and I was just laying in bed and I couldn’t move and I just kept staring at the ceiling fan. And I just kept taking more pills. I literally couldn’t walk for two days when that happened and eventually my drug use f***in’ skyrocketed. I had f**in’ 10 drug dealers at one time that I’m getting my shit from. 75 to 80 Valiums a night, which is a lot. I don’t know how the f*** I’m still here. I was numbing myself.


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Proof was one of Eminem’s best friends

Proof, whose real name was DaShaun Holton, grew up with Eminem in Detroit. The two supported each other in their dreams of becoming rappers, and promised each other that they would be by each other’s side when one of them blew up.

Eminem and Proof once spoke the Los Angeles Times together about their bond. “There was like a personal agreement we made when we first got together years ago in Detroit: if any of us made it, we’d bring the others along and do something together,” Eminem said, adding, “Everyone thought Proof would be the one to make it.”

Proof, for his part, doubted that Em would forget about him if he became famous. “Never,” he said. “Nothing’s changed between us. We still go to Burger Kings and Taco Bells and wear Nikes.” They were both a part of the Detroit hip-hop collective D12, and released two albums: 2001’s Devil’s Night and 2004’s D12 World. Proof went on to release his debut solo album I Miss the Hip Hop Shop in 2004 and Searching For Jerry Garcia the following year.