Mac Dre

Mac Dre

Andre Hicks (July 5, 1970November 1, 2004), better known by his stage name, Mac Dre. He was one of the originators of hyphy and is generally considered the creator of Thizz music. He worked with well-known artists such as Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Keak da Sneak, Andre Nickatina, and Too Short. He also provided an uncredited hook to the track "Gotta Survive" off of Young Lay's Black N' Dangerous album.

His lyrics were largely based on his neighborhood known by those around him as "The Crest", short for Country Club Crest. His music gained popularity in the early to mid 1990s throughout the Bay Area, eventually receiving national recognition through his independent record labels Romp and Thizz Entertainment. During his music career, he released many hit singles, such as "Too Hard for the Fuckin' Radio", and more recently "Feelin' Myself" and "Get Stupid". His music continues to be released posthumously. He was the creator of the "Thizzle Dance", as well as many other popular dances which were referred to as giggin'.

Early Life and Career

Mac Dre was raised in Vallejo,CA born Andre Hicks in Oakland, California, on July 5, 1970. Aside from a few slick soul-talking DJs on select radio stations in California, the notion of rapping as a musical form was years away. Speaking from her Vallejo home, just after the one-year anniversary of her son's death, Hicks' mother Wanda Salvatto can't say that she knew her son would be a performer, but she remembers noticing from an early age that he was a rampant individualist.

"The thing about Andre as a child," she says, "was that he was always very, very outgoing and outspoken. He had a mind of his own early on and followed his own direction." His parents tried to get him involved in sports, but Salvatto says he took more interest in talking to other kids than in playing games with them. "He was interested in all kinds of people," she says, "and in the differences in people. It fascinated him to meet white kids over in Marin, black kids in Country Club Crest, Mexican kids--y'know, the people thing interested him. He opened up to everybody."

It wasn't until the family moved to the Country Club Crest neighborhood--known more familiarly as Crestside or "the Crest"--that a clear picture of his future started to take shape. Hicks and his friends began dragging home large rolls of linoleum to use for break dancing in the garage. "He also started asking for keyboards," Salvatto recalls, "and early in junior high, he started to pick up the microphone and started rapping and writing lyrics himself, I'd say about the seventh or eighth grade."

By the time Hicks was a teenager, rap music had become a coast-to-coast phenomenon, and Vallejo's own underground began bubbling. One of Vallejo's early pioneers, Michael "the Mac" Robinson, released the groundbreaking album The Game Is Thick in 1988; its influence is still felt throughout the Northern California rap scene. Eighteen-year-old Robinson protégé Andre Hicks adopted the name "Mac" in honor of his mentor, and his artistic persona, Mac Dre, was born. "I knew that he would be successful," Salvatto says, "because he was really, really smart--a lot of just common sense."

Hardship and controversy were staples of Mac Dre's career. After recording his first three albums between 1989 and 1991, Mac Dre was charged with conspiracy to commit bank robbery. His record label, Romp Productions, and his many references to "Romper Room" (part of the Nortenos gang) in his songs, coincided with a Vallejo robbery gang of the time calling themselves the "Romper Room Gang" and responsible for the robberies of many area banks and pizza parlors. The Robberies even had small segment on the television show Unsolved Mysteries. Hicks was alleged to be a member of the gang which also included Bay Rapper J-Diggs and Da'unda'dogg. Hicks was sentenced to five years in prison in 1992.

In prison, Hicks gained some notoriety by recording the lyrics to songs directly over the Fresno County jail inmate telephone. His album, Young Black Brotha, was a result of such efforts, as well as guest appearances on fellow artists' songs, all while Hicks was still imprisoned. A later album, Back 'N Da Hood, was also made up of these prison-recorded songs.

After his release from prison in 1996, Mac Dre The classic album Rapper Gone Bad with production from Tone Cappone , Lev Berlak ,and Warren G this started a new beginning for Mac Dre after this he released albums steadily, building a huge catalog of music recorded at The Grill Studios in oakland CA. or at many small studios he frequented thru out his carrier as Mac Dre's audience was growing, and mainstream hip-hop stations were beginning to give Hicks' music more airtime. Hicks relocated to Sacramento, California where he started a new label imprint (one of many followed ) the label "Thizz Entertainment" is credited with coining the slang verb to thizz and secured Dre as the Godfather of the Hyphy movement that years later was brought to the mainstream by E-40

Death

On November 1, 2004, returning to Kansas City, Missouri, a car pulled up next to the white diesel van carrying Dre. Though it is not known whether words were exchanged, occupants of the car opened fire. The van swerved off the road and into a ravine where it ran into a ditch and Dre was thrown from the vehicle. Mac's driver could not find him in the dark and ran down the freeway to get help but found Mac dead upon returning. He is believed to have died instantly from a gunshot wound to the neck.

In 2005 due to a large amount of suspicion, Kansas City rapper Anthony "Fat Tone" Watkins was murdered in Las Vegas, allegedly by Bay Area rapper and Dre's good friend Mac Minister, in retaliation for Hicks' death. The body of a prostitute, 21-year-old Lee Danae Laursen, was found in Fairfield, CA in November 2005; Laursen had been in the company of Mac Minister (Andre Dow) and Jason Mathis in Las Vegas when Watkins was murdered. In March 2006, Dow was arrested by FBI officials and both Dow and Mathis were indicted on murder charges in the Watkins murder. Some in the rap community initially suspected the March 2007 shooting death of Johnny Cash (Johnny Castaneda, a/k/a "The Fast Gunna") was related to the Mac Dre killing; however, officials attributed Castaneda's death to unrelated "street violence".

On the weekend of the August 26, 2006, Hicks' tombstone was stolen from his final resting place at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. AP.9, a rapper who was close to Hicks offered a $10,000 reward out of his own pocket for anyone who had any information on the location of the tombstone. AP.9 stated that he believed the theft had nothing to do with Hicks' murder. The tombstone has since been replaced.

Television

Mac Dre's underground rap career kept him off of the radio stations and T.V. screens almost entirely. However, B.E.T.'s documentary-type show American Gangster will air an episode focusing on Mac Dre and his Romper Room ties, Max Brown. The show is expected to be aired sometime in November as part of B.E.T.'s new programming block. Mac Dre was also featured on M.T.V.'s My Block in a memorial montage.

Discography

Please see: Mac Dre discography

References

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