6. Mac Dre
From: Vallejo, CA
Signature Song: Mac Dre "Feelin' Myself" (2004)
Mac Dre's story is most memorably chronicled in an episode of BET's American Gangster series that was technically about the Pizzeria/Bank Robbery clique known as the Romper Room Gang. But since Mac Dre's legend was the most compelling part of the story, the show's producers focused on the rapper as their star, even though he was considered a tangential part of the gang's criminal escapades (though it should be noted that he did bait police officers by name in song and mentioned the name of an informant in a jailhouse call to KMEL radio). But leaving all that other stuff aside, he was truly an amazing rapper. A charismatic, gifted lyricist with an incomparable sense of humor, Mac Dre became one of the biggest stars in California rap history.
After his release from prison in the late 1990s (he received a 5-year federal sentence when the FBI caught the Romper Room Gang planning a bank heist), Mac spearheaded the Bay's hyphy movement and helped spread the scene on a touring circuit from California throughout flyover country, pushing to the East as far as Kansas City. To this day, Bay Area rap has a strong hold on sizable portions of the Midwest, largely thanks to his efforts. While many critics reduced "hyphy" to a buzzword for a production style and the antics of a few goofy teenagers, Mac Dre was interested in conveying the culture, the entire experience.
His music made it seem like life was a partyâ€”albeit one with a very real and dangerous underbelly, and he was the spiritual center of the entire movement, a pill-popping community elder who was as much a force of nature as a rapper. When he was murdered in 2004, he left behind a musical legacy that remains largely underappreciated-albums like Genie of the Lamp, Al Boo Boo and Ronald Dregan, despite their whimsical titles and album art, are impeccable projects that show the true strength of Mac Dre's sound-a sound that's still influential on records like Drake's "The Motto."