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From the World of Rap, a Tip of the Cap to Jerry Garcia

September 08, 2002|STEVE HOCHMAN

Eminem may not have much respect for Moby. But one of his close associates is paying sincere if unlikely homage to another bespectacled rock star.

Proof, a rapper in Eminem's posse, D12, has made a solo album, "Searching for Jerry Garcia," that takes an earnest and sympathetic look at the life and death of the late Grateful Dead leader.

Due Nov. 26 from Proof's own Iron Fist Records label, the album also features references to such other deceased icons as John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Marvin Gaye.

"My quest in life is I'm searching for Jerry Garcia, and my feeling is everyone is, because he died from a combination of drugs, stress and diet, which are things everyone has to deal with," Proof says. "Drugs can be something like too much TV, it doesn't have to be real drugs.

"Everybody is going to take [the references] at face value, but there's a bigger picture there."

Of all the fallen rock heroes, the portly, bearded hippie guru Garcia, who died of a heart attack while in a drug rehabilitation facility in 1995 at age 53, seems an odd object of sympathy for a young urban rapper. But Proof (who is also sometimes known by his alternate identity, Dirty Harry) is a true fan.

"I just became one in the last two years," he says. "I happened to be chillin' at my manager's house, and he's a Deadhead and I was sitting watching a documentary on Jerry Garcia and he reminded me of myself. He went and did jazz albums, he did a range of music. I thought, 'Great.'

"Next thing I know I got sucked in all the way. He never did the same kind of show, always played something different. His attitude was, '[Never mind] selling records, let's go rock these people.' That's my attitude. It's not a matter of selling a million records. It's go where the people are at. They gonna follow you anyway."

To carry the theme further, Proof commissioned album art by Philip Garris, who painted the cover for the Dead's 1975 album, "Blues for Allah," and other items for the band.

Although Garcia is the central presence for the album (which features appearances by the rest of D12 as well as Nelly Furtado), each song is titled after a different figure, with subtitles keyed to the lyrics. "John Lennon: 'One on One' " explores the dark side of fan worship. "Kurt Cobain: 'Take It Back' " addresses the mountain of regrets that could lead to suicide.

"It's talking about all the things in my life that I wish I could take back," Proof says. "Things I did with D12, friends I had and lost, and in the end [wanted] to kill myself. Kurt is somebody I could understand."

The songs don't use samples of the title artists' music, nor are they meant to be musical tributes, he stresses.

"It's just my appreciation for them and what they've done in my life," he says. "I don't want to get all crazy here, but I believe every person has their own world, and they don't collide, but bridge. I never got to meet Kurt Cobain, but this song is our bridge between our worlds."

GROUND CONTROL: Lance Bass may not get to take his extraterrestrial trip, but Ziggy Stardust will be launched on a space odyssey. Well, at least David Bowie's musical portrait of his early-'70s alter ego will.

Bowie's entire "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars" album will be beamed into space in January in a high-powered laser transmission. Bowie will then create an archive of "Ziggy"-related documents that, along with a CD, will be sent on the first full launch of a solar-sail spaceship, scheduled to take place in 2005.

Marking this year's 30th anniversary of the "Ziggy" album, the space efforts are being coordinated by Houston-based Team Encounter, a commercial space flight company that has developed the solar sail technology, in conjunction with Mach18, an L.A. firm that, with Bowie, has developed an interactive "Ziggy" 30th anniversary Web site.

Team Encounter is selling space to the public for archive documents on the 2005 vessel, which uses a sail the size of a football field. The ship will be propelled by solar waves into deep space, passing Pluto after 17 years. Cameras aboard the ship will beam back pictures of the voyage. About 80,000 people from around the world have signed up so far, says Team Encounter President and Chief Executive Charlie Chafer.

Chafer, a longtime Bowie fan, says he didn't hesitate when Mach18 approached him about the project.

"When they asked if Team Encounter would be interested in being involved, I said that it wasn't really a choice," he says.

Back on Earth, the Web site, which is launching as part of Bowie's Internet venture, will offer fans interactive elements looking at the creation of the Ziggy character, the music and the groundbreaking concert tour, with rare photos and film footage. It is slated to be one of the first major sites to use the new Flash 6 technology.

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