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Listen: Our Thizz DJ Mix Honors Mac Dre’s Complicated, Posthumous Empire

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Mac Dre performs on stage in 2004, wearing giant sunglasses, a striped polo shirt and Adidas jacket. Men on stage are going dumb, dancing and singing along to the lyrics.
Mac Dre performs in 2004. His Thizz Entertainment label, founded in 1999, put out his best-known albums, as well as releases from Mistah F.A.B., The Jacka, J Diggs and more. (D-Ray)

Editor’s note: This story is part of That’s My Word, KQED’s year-long exploration of Bay Area hip-hop history, with new content dropping all throughout 2023. 

After March’s special DJ mix paying tribute to 36 years of incredible women rappers, DJs and producers from the Bay Area, my latest mix for KQED concerns a decidedly more male-dominated subject: Thizz Entertainment, the record label founded by Mac Dre in 1999. (Since his untimely death in 2004, Thizz has been run by his mother, “Mac Wanda” Salvatto.)

Although his rap career began in 1989, Mac Dre is best known for his work from the early-to-mid-2000s: party-pitched music that showed the world a fun slice of Bay Area street life. He captured the electric energy of the post-grind afterparty, and the standouts of his many posthumous songs lean into the deep, live funk slung in the East Bay for decades.


If you’re into true crime or soap operas, the list of people who have claimed to be affiliated with Thizz Entertainment (rightfully or not) after Mac Dre’s demise offers substance for several movies. It’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories and interviews on YouTube, and hard to crawl out.

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The term “thizz” was originally slang for ecstasy, which Mac Dre dabbled in thanks to the local rave scene. The loved-up stimulant was a staple of the hyphy movement. And it would continue to figure into the Thizz Entertainment storyline long after Mac Dre’s death, most notably in a 2012 federal drug bust of men who sold ecstasy and said they represented Thizz. Salvatto quickly moved to distance Thizz Entertainment from the subjects of the drug probe.

“I worked very hard to clean up and maintain a legitimate label and business for my son,” she told The Mercury News. “I don’t want to confuse what we do with our fans.”

Assembling a DJ mix like this as a woman was an interesting creative exercise. The label had few female artists. We’re mostly referred to as “skirts” and “crevices” in the catalog, and the misogyny is on 1800 Jose Cuervo pretty much all the time. Pimping and drug dealing are more popular topics than partying, but, like J Diggs says, he’s “Really Not a Rapper,” and that can describe many of the men who’ve released tracks on Thizz.

Thizz Entertainment’s discography is vast: Discogs counts 178 different releases, though it’s difficult to tell how many of those aren’t official. As a hip-hop and dance music DJ, I tend to gravitate towards the happier and more drugged-out sound that Mac Dre popularized. I’ve also long appreciated that there are a lot of Bay Area and Southern rap connections in the vast Thizzcography, including a whole “chopped and screwed” collection. (Sadly, the Merry Thizzmas compilation featuring Lil Wayne isn’t available on iTunes.)

If you thought Tupac Shakur had a lot of posthumous works, you’ll be impressed with Mac Dre’s output in the afterlife (perhaps unsurprising if you know that he once recorded a whole album over a jail telephone). My favorite by far is “Roll Wit” featuring Zion I, a song with even more weight since the 2021 passing of the group’s MC Steve “Zumbi” Gaines.

This isn’t a purely hyphy mix — the label veered away from the sound when the scene did, though you’ll hear some peak hyphy fun in there for sure. And please note that one selection in the set, “Angel in the Sky” by Mac Dre’s “Thizzelle Dance” guest stars Sumthin Terrible, was released on their own Stupid Ent label and not Thizz; it’s included as an example of one of the more sincere posthumous tribute songs to Andre Hicks.

Mixcloud.com, which hosts this DJ mix, places restrictions on how many songs can be included from a single artist or album release. But the spirit of Mac Dre still flows through every selection in the set, which begins and ends with his voice from Treal T.V., his cult-favorite DVD that dropped in September 2003. I recorded it all live with love on two turntables and Serato DJ Pro software.

While you can find Mac Dre mixtapes online, I haven’t yet seen a Thizz-themed mix that pays respect to this fascinating and complicated label. That changes right now, because Thizz iz what it iz!

Tracklist

Intro — Treal T.V.

Mac Dre featuring Sumthin Terrible, “Thizzelle Dance” (2002)

Mac Dre, “Feelin’ Myself” (2004)

Mistah F.A.B. featuring Turf Talk and E-40, “Super Sic Wit It” (2005)

Keak Da Sneak, “Eatin’” (2006)

Dubee AKA Sugawolf, “Thizz Overdose” (2010)

Mac Mall, “Mac to the Future” (2014)

Mac Mall, “Mac Dre T-Shirt” (2009)

J Diggs, “Really Not a Rapper” (2005)

Blu Davinci featuring Dru Down, J Diggs & Yukmouth, “Locked Up” (2005)

Fendi Boys & Johnny Cash, “Thizz How We Talk” (2011)

Farm Boyz, “All N Da Doe” (2009)

Rydah J. Klyde, “Hustlin” and “Thizz Kids” (2005)

Mistah F.A.B. featuring J. Nash, “Nation of Thizzlam” (2006)

Husalah featuring Cutthoat Committee, “Song 4 You” (2010)

Sumthin Terrible, “Angel in the Sky” (2006)

The Jacka, “Want It All” (2011)

Mac Dre featuring Zion I, “Roll Wit” (2008)

Outro — Treal T.V.

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