Label: Young Black Brotha
Killer Cuts: "Sic Wit Tis," "Illegal Business," "Ghetto Theme"
See Also: Young Lay Black 'N Dangerous
Mac Mall was one of the standout stars on the Young Black Brotha record label, and his debut Illegal Business? remains one of hip-hop's most underrated LPs, at least on a national level. Young Black Brotha revolved around a small group of artists who, alongside E-40's Sic Wit It crew, would help define the popular sound of the Vallejo region in the mid-1990s. Producer Khayree did the bulk of the production. Amazingly, he cut his teeth making beats for the diamond-selling Vanilla Ice LP To The Extreme, producing songs like "Hooked" and "It's a Party." But he built his career working with the Young Black Brotha crew, included Ray Luv, whose Forever Hustlin' featured smooth summertime gem "Last Nite," and Young Lay, who released the excellent Black 'N Dangerous. Oh yeah, and future legend Mac Dre was also in the fold.
In the mid-1990s, though, it seemed like Mac Mall was the breakout star. Illegal Business? sold 200k independently, got MM a gig with Relativity Records for his sophomore effort, and was a favorite of Tupac, who offered to shoot the video for the album's second single, "Ghetto Theme." That song's mournful cry was less typical of the record than lead single "Sic WIt Tis." Dexterous party raps over Khayree's searing synthesizer-funk beats perfectly capture the platonic ideal of the era's sound. Meanwhile, the album's title track closed out the record with harrowing and dramatic narrative on par with any east coast classic.