Fans of Bay Area Hip Hop may be familiar with the name Mac Shawn (a/k/a MacShawn100). The energetic emcee has spent over 21 years touching microphones with the likes of E-40, Daz Dillinger, Snoop Dogg and others. With previous solo and group deals with labels like Sick Wid It Records, Death Row Records, Dogg Pound Records and others, Shawn’s 2010 was culminated with a major label signing by longtime friend and supporter Snoop Dogg, to his Creative Chairman tenure at Priority Records. With a unique style and catch-phrase (“and you do know that”), Mac Shawn may have caught his big break, and he caught up with HipHopDX to speak about it.
Within his three decades of appearances, Mac Shawn’s biggest moment may have come courtesy of E-40’s 1995 album, In A A Major Way. A decade before kids on the east coast were talking about “ghostridin’ the whip,” Shawn’s energy brought the tire-burning anthem, “Sideways” to life.
“That was a highlight. That was big for me,” recalled a jovial Mac Shawn. “I had been on some things before that, but that was the first major thing I had been on with the Mac Shawn voice and the name, and lettin’ people hear it. That was the rise of it. That album [In A Major Way] was kind of big, through the Jive [Records] deal, I had received a lot of love on that from the response [the record received].” With Shawn’s group, Funk Mobb, waiting in tow to release their lone album, It Ain’t 4 Play a year later, the moment was critical. “That did somethin’ good for me and my career. It gave me a launching pad.”
The Funk Mobb quartet of Mac Shawn, K-1, G-Note and Lil Bruce (who was then listed as just a featured guest) is not widely remembered today, despite It Ain’t 4 Play selling a reported 60,000 units in 1996. Still, like neighboring 3xKrazy, the group would give birth to an invincible voice of the people. After working with cousins E-40 and B-Legit dating back to 1989, Shawn would appear on The Click’s independent release of Down N’ Dirty on “This Is The Shit That Will Mess Up Your Brain.” It was family that not only brought Shawn into the craft, but gave him his first of several notable label contracts. “My cousin E-40 and B-Legit had the deal, so [the Funk Mobb] was distributed through the [Jive Records] deal.” Despite that fact that Mac Shawn and E-40 are family, the raspy-voiced rapper has no problem criticizing his bloodline for missing an opportunity. “The Funk Mobb was a hell of a group. We came out, we did somethin’ with it. We actually could’ve did somethin’ bigger, but we didn’t see no promo on our end, so it didn’t turn into a good situation.” An outspoken Shawn continued, “That was E-40 and B-Legit that had fucked that up. Jive did the distribution on puttin’ the album in every store across the world, but it was up to Sick Wid It Records, which was owned by ‘Bela’ and 40, it was up to them to do the promo. That’s why I left the label.”
Although Shawn and E-40 would break their employee/employer relationship in 1997, the family, which remains tight-knit, is arguably the most expansive Hip Hop family to date. Asked about the role that the culture played for Shawn and his would-be star cousins, he recalled, “Being from the west coast, my idol was Too Short. We was up on Run-DMC, Eric B & Rakim, Doug E. Fresh, all them, back in the days, but our first go-hard guy was Short.” While noting Steady B, MC Shy-D, Cool C and the late Scott La Rock as additional influences, it really was about Oakland, California’s native son. “He was one who put the influence in us, due to the dynamic background that we come from with that hustler, pimp, mack, slick shit, fly talk, that swag. Short was the first one! We was up on Short in ’81, ’82, ’83,” noted Shawn.
After the group deal fizzled with E-40 at Sick Wid It, Mac Shawn followed in the legacy of 2Pac and Hammer as a Bay Area transplant welcomed by Suge Knight at Death Row Records. Shawn’s welcome party was a 1999 double-disc album that stirred controversy in the Rap advertising world in Suge Knight Represents…The Chronic 2000. The Priority-distributed release was a direct block at Dr. Dre’s sophomore solo, which despite plans of using a similar title, would release as simply 2001 later that year. Moreover, the release, which was carried by unheard 2Pac songs, was also blemished by soundalike rappers as well as pot-shot disses at former label stars from relative unknowns. Despite the album’s negative energies, Mac Shawn looks back fondly at his time with Tha Row. “It was 1998 when I signed wit’ ’em – Daz [Dillinger] was still there. I had come in on the end ’cause of Daz. It was a good thing. It was a good album. It was real controversial.” Both of Shawn’s appearances avoided disses, as some of the album’s brighter moments. That trend would continue on two more Row releases, Tha Dogg Pound’s 2002 and another compilation, Too Gangsta For Radio, which was also charged with attacks on Dr. Dre, Snoop, and even Daz by that point. Looking back, Sean simply says, “It was good for me to get my name out…a lot of folks that wasn’t hearin’ me got a chance to, with that Chronic.” And while early Internet message boards spun “friend or foe” yarns, Shawn said it was all understood within the circle throughout those three years. “It was business. Me and Daz was cool with [my appearances on those albums that] came out. I wouldn’t have even did it if Daz wasn’t cool with it. As long as my guys was okay with it, we was gettin’ money, so shit. It ain’t no thing.”
That understanding and support is what has allowed Mac Shawn to reappear in 2010, through Daz’s own high-profile cousin, Snoop Dogg. “We go way back. When [Tha Dogg Pound] first came to the Bay, we was the ones who’d bring ’em. We almost go back like 20 years. It’s always been a real, close tight-knit [circle],” explained Shawn. “So when Snoop [Dogg] was in a position like he is as [Creative] Chairman at Priority/Capitol, I was the first one on his list to sign. He knows what I’m ’bout, what I bring to the table, and my creativity.” The rapper joins Cypress Hill at Priority/EMI, and has already released a video to his single, “And You Know That.”
Calling his long-awaited solo debut a “monster,” Shawn describes 2011-planned Tha Bigg Fish as “Heavy metaphors, poppin’ that game, havin’ that charisma and flyness on that microphone.”
Mac Shawn’s best days may be in his horizons, not in his rearview. And you do know that.