everywhere I go
I get love from the locals Mac Dre, "The Genie of the Lamp"
MUSIC "A mack is different from a pimp," Mac Mall tells me. "A pimp would starve without a woman. But a mack is a master of creativity. He can manipulate any situation."
As a "third-generation mack" from Vallejo's notorious Crestside hood, Mac Mall knows whereof he speaks. "Mack" is an age-old term in the Bay, lending itself to the region's premier blaxploitation film, The Mack (1973). Yet, Mall reveals, "There ain't gonna be anymore rappers named 'Mac' out of the Crest" because the title has accrued too much tragedy. The very first rapper in both the Crest and Vallejo itself was the Mac, Michael Robinson, who was murdered in a case of mistaken identity in 1990. But the immediate catalyst for the name's retirement was the murder of André Hicks, a.k.a. Mac Dre, who was gunned down Nov. 1, 2004 in Kansas City.
Five years later, Dre is more popular than ever, receiving the kind of universal love in the Bay generally reserved for 2pac. Images of Dre are so ubiquitous the lead single from Mall's just-released Mac to the Future (Thizzlamic) is "Mac Dre T-Shirt."
"It's the flag of the whole Bay," Mall says. "Even if you's old, you know that face because you seen it everywhere. Dre's part of our culture, like the Grateful Dead."
Yet Mall admits he and others among Dre's Thizz Entertainment empire feel occasional ambivalence about Dre's iconographic status. "I know we share him with the world," he says. "It be hard sometimes because he's so us. He's ours. But I opened my mind: even if they'll never get it, there's something like us they relate to in there, something everyone can grab onto."
Some of Dre's appeal is, of course, obvious. Unlike many rappers, he had a gangsta authenticity, partly stemming from almost five years in prison for conspiracy to rob a bank (although he and his actual bank-robber friends like rapper J-Diggs insisted he was innocent). But far more important is his humor, expressed in unexpected metaphors ("get on a nigga's head like some headphones"), goofy characters (Ronald Dregan, Thizzelle Washington), and a life-of-the-party attitude, even concocting his own dances (the Furley, the Thizzelle Dance). What other thug could rock cardigans and Burberry? With his lean, lanky frame and outrageous hairstyles, Dre was like a combination Snoop Dogg and Humpty Hump.
According to Mistah F.A.B., whose breakthrough disc Son of a Pimp (2005) came out on Thizz, Snoop himself is fan.
"Snoop was watching [Dre's DVD] Treal TV (2003)," F.A.B. reports, "and was like, 'That nigga's a fool!' When someone big as Snoop gives Dre the respect and love, that lets you know the ability he had."
"He wasn't the average of what we produce," says Dre's close friend and fellow Cutthroat Committee-member Dubai. "He excelled in the game like, left-wing, not how you're used to someone doing it. The average motherfucker who do it like this is a weirdo, and this dude is cool as fuck. So it opened up motherfuckers. You can come through and be yourself."
All of Dre's friends I spoke to brought up this same point. As Mac Mall put it, "He let people feel free. He went to the pen and could've been rappin about the hardest stuff, but he was more about having fun. Everyone gives you a façade, but Dre was a whole."
Mistah F.A.B. even links Dre's wholeness to his penchant for characters. "They were all aspects of his personality," he says. "When you deal with truth, you have nothing to hide.