Earlier in the week (Nov. 1) marked the 12th anniversary of Mac Dre’s death, but in Northern Cali they still celebrate the late legend: Not just for his music but for his indomitable spirit, his uncanny energy and his infectious hits that made him a local legend. His untimely death left many to wonder what might have been had it not been for the night he was murdered in Kansas City, MO (a case that remains unsolved to this day).
Dre (real name Andre Hicks) had a broader appeal. A savvy business man that branded himself and his label Thizz Entertainment, and an authentic and funny rhymer that many of the major labels wanted a piece of towards the end of his life at just 34 years of age.
In an exclusive conversation with HipHopDX, Bay Area ambassador E-40 and Mac Dre’s former manager, Seaside Stretch spoke on their individual relationships that include accounts of partying with the Thizz Entertainment CEO, drinking Hennessey at video shoots.
For many years, there was a perceived tension between Mac Dre and E-40. Many argue over who was really responsible for the birth and proliferation of the Hyphy movement, as the facts seemed to be muddled as the years rolled by.
“I had talked to him after the situation. What I mean by that is in 2003 I had a song called “Quarterbackin’” so we did that at the college in San Francisco. DJ Quik was at that one cause he did the beat and my boy Chuck from Street Cred Records was there. Mac Dre came through with Miami The Most; they came through, you know what I mean? And I’m [wondering] ‘Where’s the footage of this?’ Everybody’s trying to pull out all kinds of other footage. Where’s the footage of me and Mac Dre drinking Hennessy, you know what I mean? Where’s that at? This was a couple years before he died but I wasn’t hated by that man.”
Earl Stevens went on to clarify that what people thought was a personal feud between the two was really just the product of regional differences.
“That man respected me and I respected him. It just be the sideline muthafuckas that’s always tryna say something that got it all fucked up. Now, of course, we had neighborhood differences you feel what I’m sayin’? I’m from the Hillside; he’s from the Crestside but that was in the past so you know, it wasn’t ‘me’ and ‘him.’ It was just neighborhood shit. Me and him wasn’t like ‘Man when I see him I’ma smoke him.’ We wasn’t on that page like that. I was just taking up for my side and he was taking up for his side. At the end of the day we respected each other as artists and I truly believe that he was a great artist and he’s gone too soon.”
As Mac Dre’s manager from 1999 until the time of his passing, Seaside Stretch got to know Dre as both an artist and a man. Looking back, the Hip Hop mogul speaks on his time managing the late legend, what set him apart from other artists and the possibility of unreleased Mac Dre music ever seeing the light of day. While he admits he doesn’t have a definitive “Mac Dre moment,” he’s quick to point out that the slain rap star was always able to sprinkle even the darkest situation with loads of humor.
“I actually met him on an airplane coming back from Vegas in ’99,” Stretch, who now manages Sage the Gemini and Iamsu! among several other budding stars, recalled. “We just started talking and hit it off and I was actually doing concert promotions in the local area and started booking some shows with him and from there, I came on and there was a studio they had in West Oakland that was kind of run down. So I came in and basically redid the studio and took over all the stuff on the business side for the label Thizz Entertainment.
Given his promoter background, Stretch was familiar with rappers of all walks of life but something about Dre was undeniably unique. Obviously, no one knows what the future would have held in store for the Godfather of Thizz but the assumptions of becoming a bigger brand aren’t too crazy.
“I think the sky is the limit because he possessed something that I haven’t seen in anybody else and that’s just the way he could connect with people,” Stretch speculates. “Every person I know and every fan has their Mac Dre story about meeting him, and it wasn’t just an interaction. It’s always a story even today 12 years after his passing. I don’t know too many artists that have that impact on people and even today.
“Really his fearlessness and his ability to see the bigger picture, that this is a lot bigger than just your neighborhood, your state or your country. He looked at things on a completely different level and didn’t care what people thought. He wasn’t afraid to try different shit.”
We’re closing in on nearly a decade since a posthumous project from Mac Dre was released to the public and while Stretch admits there are still some records in the vault, rolling them out is easier said than done.
“There’s a couple things that haven’t been released,” he admits. “The problem with it was if something’s not a song, or is not complete – it’s like the Tupac thing – somebody has to come in and say ‘I think this is what this person would have done,’ and that’s kind of impossible.”
Even a “Pimp C scenario,” where individual verses wind up on other artists’ records is on the table but again, easier said than done.
“There has been talk of that but the issue is putting him on somebody’s record that he’s never met,” Stretch explains. “He was very specific on who he messed with and who he didn’t so I can’t and I don’t think anybody else can make that decision on whether he would have just because somebody is popular, on whether or not he would have wanted to make music with them. There were a lot of people he turned down making music with if he wasn’t feelin’ it.”
Looking back a decade, E-40 was the artist acknowledged by the mainstream to help usher the Hyphy movement into popular culture. While 40 got a lot of credit for shining such a beaming spotlight on the Bay Area, locally there were people that felt that Mac Dre didn’t get the credit he deserved for pioneering the sound.
“A lot of people love him but I just need people to know that I was already a made man before the Hyphy movement,” 40 says. “I was already platinum and gold and independently ghetto gold years ago in the 80s and 90s. A lot of people are too young to understand [and think that] all the sudden I got famous and he made me. No, I was already famous and I’d been a made man for many moons. But I could never talk bad about Mac Dre. First of all, he’s not here, which is a sad situation and second of all I had too much respect for him as an artist and as a man overall cause I knew that he was alright with me.”
I could never talk bad about Mac Dre…I had too much respect for him as an artist and as a man overall… — E-40
“I think just the way that people release music honestly speaks to that because he was the first person that was releasing numerous projects at the same time,” Stretch adds, speaking on Mac Dre’s lasting influence in the present day. “In a completely different era when it wasn’t just like, you make a project and put it online. This was like you make a project, you gotta go physically press it up and distribute it. He was the first person I saw that had so many aliases and characteristics of their names. Also just with the whole Thizz Entertainment thing, the motto was ‘Thizz or Die.’ Now everybody has formed a motto or a hand gesture. He’s the originator of that.”