BY KELLEY L. CARTER
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
This last year has been rough for Iron Fist Records.
Unlike other indie labels, struggling to break out and get national and perhaps international recognition, the Detroit label had an advantage that few comparable labels share: a star to help sell it and its roster of hip-hop hopefuls.
Its star died last year after police say he killed another man in an after-hours gunfight.
“We’ve been going through a transition of sorts after losing Proof,” Khalid el-Hakim, the label’s vice president, says of dealing with the death of the rapper, a member of the group D12 and Eminem’s on-stage hype man. “Iron Fist was his baby. But everybody on the label has really stepped up to the plate. The artists have stepped up. The execs on the label have stepped up and we’re carrying on his legacy. …
“Iron Fist has not died with Proof. It’s living on. We’re going through some legal issues right now with his estate. We’re going through some growing pains right now — I can’t discuss them,” he says.
Late last summer, the family of Army veteran Keith Bender Jr. filed a suit against Proof’s estate in Wayne County Circuit Court. Bender’s family claims Proof, whose legal name was Deshaun Holton, is liable for attacking and fatally wounding Bender April 11 at the CCC Club on 8 Mile.
The suit does not seek a specific amount of money. A suit filed earlier in the incident was dismissed, but the most recent one claims that Proof was known to be armed and violent and shot the 35-year-old Bender, a veteran of Operation Desert Storm. Proof, 32, died that night; Bender died a week later.
The suit capped a trying year for Detroit hip-hop, which also saw the passing of James (Jay Dee) Yancey, another important figure on the scene who died a little more than a month before Proof, his friend.
On hearing the news, people near and far asked what was to become of Detroit’s urban music scene?
The answer may be partially revealed Saturday night at Soulful Saturdays as el-Hakim pushes the talent from his label’s roster to the forefront in what will become a monthly event designed to give local musicians and poets a stage.
It is also a chance to let Detroit know that despite the strife, Iron Fist Records is persevering — and it’s got some good talent on the docket.
Guys like Supa MC, Purple Gang, DJ Drummer and Woof Pak are making noise on the local front, hoping to break out nationally.
This weekend the event will include performances by Baatin — formerly of Slum Village — Omari (KingWise), Taja Sevelle and DJ Genesis. The show will be hosted by Versiz, a local poet.
“It’ll be a little bit of poetry, a little bit of R&B and a little bit of hip-hop,” el-Hakim says. “It’s an opportunity for artists, managers, promoters, record label execs to come and network in an environment that helps move the industry forward in Detroit.”
Contact KELLEY L. CARTER at 313-222-8854 or firstname.lastname@example.org.