When you think of the Bay Area and Hip-Hop you think of E-40, Keak Da Sneak, Hieroglyphics, Digital Underground, Too Short and of course Mac Dre. It’s been 8 years since Mac’s death and his music still lives on. His label, Thizz Entertainment, which is now owned and run by Wanda Salvatto, who is Mac Dre’s mother, lives on.
Last week, Federal authorities raided Yuba County estate on 230 acres of land in and seized 45,000 Ecstasy pills, 4 pounds of crack cocaine a half a pound of Heroin and $200,000 in cash. 25 people were arrested from the drug ring.
Yo! Raps got the exclusive chance to speak directly with Wanda Salvatto to set the record straight. Her mission; keep her son’s name and his music catalog, which consists of over 25 albums, alive and in a positive light.
Wanda insists that Thizz Entertainment is not a part of Thizz Nation, which is the label associated with the alleged crimes.
Wanda talks about her son’s dreams, his mistakes, his influence on Hip-Hop, his vision and how Young Money superstar Drake support her crusade to keep Mac Dre’s name and vision alive, forever.
Mac Dre was 34 years at the time of his death. He released his first body of work at the age of 18 years old. He will be missed. Now, we present to you the exclusive Yo! Raps interview with Wanda Salvatto about her son, the icon and legend of Bay Area Hip-Hop.
Here is the true Mac Dre story.
What do you think is going on with the authorities trying to tie Mac Dre into their latest investigation when he’s been gone for 8 years and he isn’t associated with Thizz Nation?
My theory is that some of these people that were questioned by the DEA or other authorities that they were part of Mac’s label Thizz Entertainment. The list stated that they were all rappers and there are probably only three people on that list that I know as rappers. The other 22 I have no idea who they are. To them it’s probably a bigger case if they try to tie it to Thizz Entertainment because Mac is still so big in the Bay area. They got the attention that they wanted because without tying it to Mac’s name it wouldn’t have been that big of a story
Ok well, the latest reports stated that Michael “Mike The Most” Lott and 9 others were implicated in the crime. You are saying that it’s about 25 people being implicated. Have you heard from Michael Lott or any one that Mac may have associated with in reference to this case prior to or after the case was publicized?
I know Michael through my son but I haven’t really had any contact with him in the last 8 years since my son’s death. The papers have Michael listed as the owner of Thizz Entertainment and that’s not true. After my son died they decided to do a spinoff of Mac’s label and they call it Thizz Nation. So in the last 8 years if they have released anything it has been under the label Thizz Nation not Thizz Entertainment. They are two totally different entities and to my knowledge Michael Lott isn’t even the owner of Thizz Nation. So I don’t know where that information is coming from. I don’t know if he’s saying that or if the authorities are assuming that.
So who is the owner of Thizz Nation?
Simon “Kilo” Nelson.
So Thizz Nation has absolutely nothing to do with Thizz Entertainment?
Right. I spoke with Simon Nelson 8 years ago and told him that the only reason I was maintaining the label Thizz Entertainment, was to carry on my son’s legacy and to maintain his music and his estate. I have not signed any artists and I have never even entertained the idea signing any artists. So anything that was released after my son’s death was released under Kilo’s label Thizz Nation.
So is there absolutely no affiliation?
Well, it’s a spinoff because Miami, Kilo and a couple of other guys did rap and they did have some lyrics on some of Mac Dre’s work, although they never signed any official contracts with Thizz Entertainment.
Mac inspired a musical movement that still lives on to this day in the Bay Area. So do you think the authorities are fishing in the water trying to tie Mac to all of this and what are you doing to keep your son’s name immortalized in a positive manner?
Well, there really hasn’t been much said up until this happened. I assumed and maybe it was wrong on my part to assume anything in reference to all of this. What I’m doing is making sure that anything that is released under Thizz Entertainment is only Mac’s material so the primary focus of the label is Mac Dre and only Mac Dre. We are still distributing Mac’s music.
Recently we all witnessed the reincarnation of Tupac Shakur through a visual hologram at the Coachella event this year. Do you feel that Mac should be immortalized in that way also, because of what he’s done for Hip-Hop and the Bay Area?
Yes absolutely! I have had some inquiries about it and I am looking into that.
You have been quoted as saying that you want to keep your son’s name alive and that you are searching for peace. What kind of peace are you searching for? And why are you still searching for peace?
Mainly every few years there’s always something printed about rappers in the Bay Area who have gotten into legal trouble or legal issues and they always try to tie Mac Dre to these other people that have gotten into trouble. I know that there are new artists and fans that still want to be associated with Mac through the Thizz Nation movement and I totally get that but the media only prints the negative stuff. We even have a Mac Dre day every year and if anything happens like a shooting or any other crime it’s automatically associated with Mac Dre through the press.
When is Mac Dre day and how is it celebrated?
Normally it’s on his birthday, which is July 5th and they have them in different cities. But if anything happened they always try to tie it to Mac Dre. But no one has ever asks the question of why he probably has more fans than ever. I got a call to go meet Drake recently in San Francisco and Drake spoke with me for about an hour on how Dre influenced him. And there are still a lot of kids, even kids that are 8 and 9 years old that are the children of parents that I work with that are still constantly searching for Mac Dre product. I’m still trying to figure out what the attraction is, so I go out and ask the youth why so many years later are people still so interested in Dre. And the fans are always positive but the media always goes back and prints stuff about when he was a teenager.
They are saying that there was a 4 year investigation. Has the authorities even reached out to you at all concerning the allegations and why they are trying to tie Mac Dre’s name to it all?
Not at all, not to verify if these people have legal or employment ties to Thizz Entertainment. They have not asked me any questions whatsoever. No one has reached out to me. So I reached out to some of the officers that were quoted saying different things and using Mac’s name. I reached out to ask questions and make the story straight.
Tell me about City Hall Records. I know they have distributed some of Mac’s material in the past do you have any ties to them?
Yes I do. They are the distributors of all of Mac Dre’s products
Now, we have all seen American Gangster when Mac’s crew The Romper Room Gang were featured for their criminal activities from robbing banks to dealing narcotics etc. Now, it is also publicly noted that even though Mac new these people and was associated with them, that he was never directly involved with the criminal side of things that his friends were into. Why do you think they keep trying to tie him to everything?
Because he was the most popular one out of all of them and that’s what brings attention to the news. They keep writing about this fantasy of rappers starting out selling drugs and using the drug money to start labels and that could be the case but I don’t know. What I do know is that Thizz Entertainment has not been involved in any criminal activity in the past 8 years and even longer than that because once Mac achieved a certain level of success he changed the name of his label from Romper Room Records to Thizz Entertainment because he wanted to dispel the myth that his label was founded and started with drug money.
We know that many individuals tried to attach their name to Thizz Entertainment to make a name for themselves by riding Mac Dre’s coattails and that was quoted by Black Dog Bone who is the Editor-In-Chief of the Vallejo-based Murder Dog Magazine. Have you communicated with him in reference to trying to keep Mac’s name alive in a positive light?
I used to for years and I don’t know if the magazine went out of business or what but I haven’t heard from him in at least the last five years. I haven’t even seen the magazine. But I’m happy that they were able to get a hold of him which he made some very positive quotes and I’m glad he did.
So out off all the people that you and Mac are or were affiliated with, do you feel like Black Dog Bone was the one person who stepped up the most to defend Mac?
Yes, he was a total advocate of Mac
Being that Mac Dre, your Son Mr. Andre Hicks, has so much of an irrefutable influence on a genre of music that will never die, how does that make you feel as a mother?
I’m very proud. I love his music. I’m glad that he’s being recognized but it’s two-fold. It’s a blessing and then sometimes you know, it can be very stressful. What makes me feel the proudest is when I meet young kids and their parents saying to me, what an influence he was on their children as well as the adults. I would hope that they learn that maybe just because you start out rough as young kids who get into trouble as teenagers trying to find their way, it doesn’t have to mean that it has to end up that way. If you are passionate about what you are doing and if you really listen to your parents and the people that are really trying to give you the right advice, people can change and come though. He learned from his mistakes. I saw him learn from his mistakes and I believe the fans saw that he learned from his mistakes too.
I do get really angry and upset when the media or law enforcement continues to refer back to the mistakes that he made when he was young and they don’t look at the fan base and the people that want to carry on his legacy. All over the Bay there are walls with murals of Andre’s face.
What are you doing to bring to the forefront that when Mac passed his name wasn’t gone in vain?
I continue to talk about from where he started to where he ended. I talk about the children and parents that are just fans and of his music and who he was. I try to continue to be a role model People who know me know that I’ve always been a hard working mother and I always try to encourage people. I use myself as an example to let the kids know that it’s not all about selling the drugs to start a rap label and all that stuff that the media prints. I’ve been waiting for things to die down so that I can release some more of his music and maybe with some other artists but I’ve been waiting for the right moment. This may be the right time. I had the opportunity to meet Drake and listen to him. Drake has the video where he states that Dre was an influence on him and I think now may be the right time. Meeting Drake and with all that’s happening now in the media I thinks it’s the right time to finally tell Mac Dre’s story.
Have you had other artists reach out to you in reference to working with you on some of Mac’s music?
Yes I have and I keep getting requests so I know it’s time. The past is the past and now I can tell the true story about Thizz Entertainment under my watch.
I feel like you are absolutely right. It’s sort of like when Tupac and Biggie died there was and still is a whole generation of people that tried and keep trying to keep their names alive in the form of a legacy. Is that one of your major goals?
Yes that is my goal and just when I thought that all of the negative was over and then boom, you have this big drug trafficking network that I now have to navigate through and speak about. Which I know nothing about. So now I have been faced with talking about who I know within theses 25 people in the drug organization. I’ve haven’t seen some of those people in 8 years and most of those names I’ve never even heard of. And from what I’ve heard there are even a couple of women who are caught up in that and that’s really unfortunate as well.
So I know you said you don’t want to mention any other artists that are willing to help your crusade to keep Mac’s name alive but can you definitively say that Drake is on board with you all the way?
Yes because if you go online and watch some of Drake’s concerts he kicks it off with the song The Motto [Wanda is even featured in the remix video with Lil Wayne and Tyga]. They are giving tribute to Mac Dre. This is definitely the next chapter in his life and it’s unfortunate that he’s not her to see his vision come alive and live out this chapter of his life.
That leads me to my last group of questions that I ask every artist that I interview so for you this will reflect how well you knew and loved your son. I call it Shout Outs and it’s 10 questions that I’ll ask and you give me the first thing that comes to mind about how you think Mac Dre would have answered them.
What was his favorite food?
Seafood. Crabs, lobster, shrimp and any kind of seafood.
His favorite drink alcohol or non-alcoholic?
[Laughs] It probably was alcohol and at the time he was drinking Hennessey.
Who was his favorite artist?
Old school 60‘s and 70’s soul music.
Favorite sports team?
I don’t know if he had a favorite but he used to wear a lot of different sports team hats.
A favorite sports figure?
The Sacramento Kings and Chris Webber.
His favorite place to visit?
He traveled to Hawaii before he passed a couple of times but he always wanted to see the world. We traveled to Jamaica and the Virgin Islands as a family too.
His favorite car
A Range Rover, which I now have and it’s a 2004 khaki green color.
His favorite fashion brand?
His favorite song?
He got killed in November 1st of 2004 and his latest CD he bought was Whitney Houston’s Christmas album. He was expanding as an artist and he wanted to play other than just Rap music in his car. I listened to Hall and Oates and he liked them too. He was very interested in a lot of things that I listened to even Sam Cook also. He started sampling the old school stuff way before a lot of other artists. I think Biggie even used a sample that he had used years earlier.
What was his ultimate goal and what is your ultimate goal to keep his legacy alive? And what’s next for you and your son’s legacy?
His ultimate goal was to have a label and bring up artists. Going forward what I’d love to do is keep Thizz Entertainment alive and maybe have other artists on the label that have a passion for the music the way he did and maybe even expanding into girls groups and musicians that have a passion for the music.
Were you a single mom when he grew up or was his dad present?
The first 6 years I was a single mother. I went to college. I dropped out of college to go to work to support me and him. Then I got married so he had a stepfather and we were working parents. We wanted more for him than what we had. We wanted him to go to college but he had other plans. His focus was Rap music and one of the biggest things I learned about being a parent that if someone has a passion for something there’s nothing anyone can do to stop that. No matter how many times I told him to turn that music down or put those turntables away and put that linoleum away, there was nothing I could do [laughs]. I’m so proud because I saw his transformation.
- By K.B. Tindal