In the years since his untimely death in 2004, Mac Dre’s life has become so mythologized, and his image so widespread, that he’s transformed from a pioneering local rapper into a godlike figure. A symbol of the East Bay’s unique hip-hop culture, he is considered the godfather of the hyphy movement, a fun-loving rap sub-genre that became synonymous with the Bay Area since its explosion in the mid-2000s.

Local legends like E-40 and Too $hort, as well as chart-topping rappers like Drake, all credit him as a major influence. Over the years, Mac Dre’s legions of fans have professed their devotion to him in creative ways. His face has been immortalized in murals, tattooed onto people’s bodies, encrusted in gold jewelry and even shaved into people’s hair.

To honor Mac Dre’s impact on music and culture, local visual artist Street Bleach is curating the first Mac Dre tribute art exhibit with the help of fellow artists Rebel Stilskin and Acid Bath. Titled “Dre Area: The Mac Dre Art Show,” the exhibit boasts a lineup of over 40 artists who have all created new works that pay homage to the late musician. A one-night-only affair, the show will be open to the public on April 25 from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the newly minted venue Charles Place, located at 347 13th Street in downtown Oakland. With over 800 RSVPs on the show’s Facebook event page as of press time, the exhibit has already been greeted with much fanfare.

Digital artwork by Street Bleach.

Digital artwork by Street Bleach.

Street Bleach, an Alameda native who grew up on Mac Dre’s music, conceived of the idea for “Dre Area” when he noticed the large quantity of Mac Dre fan art floating around online. As his own digital collages inspired by the rapper gained popularity on Instagram, they caught the attention of Mac Dre’s former record label, Thizz Entertainment, which now manages his posthumous affairs. Thizz Entertainment gave him their blessing to put on the exhibit and offered to help promote the event. A portion of the proceeds from the show’s $5 admission fee will go to Mac Dre’s family.

For Street Bleach, the range of artwork in “Dre Area” is a testament to Mac Dre’s widespread influence on artists across various disciplines — not just rappers, but illustrators, graffiti artists, tattooers, net artists and painters alike. “Mac Dre was always being himself, and as a result, he essentially initiated what I’ve seen to be the most positive and prevalent movement in Bay Area urban youth culture,” he said as he showed me some of the pieces submitted for the show. “Basically, the hyphy movement was every young person in the Bay Area getting together to essentially emulate Mac Dre and his personality and his lifestyle, his mannerisms, his fashion — everything. … I feel like Mac Dre is the most respected rapper in Bay Area history.”

Rebel Stilskin, who helped select artists for the show, enthusiastically described the pivotal role Mac Dre’s music played in his teenage years. “Mac Dre was a hero to me during the hyphy movement and still is. I was doing really bad in those days and his lyrics really spoke to me — especially the song ‘They Just Don’t Understand’ and the album Young Black Brotha, which he recorded over the phone in prison,” he said. “The importance to me of this show is giving all the love to Mac Dre and Thizz and his family. They literally raised me with their music.”

Street Bleach, who is coordinating the show’s logistics, is already bracing himself for the opening reception of “Dre Area” to turn into a huge party. With the growing number of RSVPs and only one night to see the show, he predicted, with some trepidation, that the venue will quickly to fill to capacity. But apart from the potential difficulties of controlling a large crowd, that seems appropriate for an art event devoted to Mac Dre. Always a proponent of having a good time, even if it’s over the top, it’s safe to bet he would appreciate a wild celebration of his life and legacy.

About The Author

Nastia Voynovskaya is an Oakland-based freelance writer and editor covering arts and culture. She is the online editor at Hi-Fructose Magazine and has written for Oakland Local, East Bay Express, SF Weekly, The Bold Italic, and more. Follow her at @nananastia.

2 Responses

  1. pablo

    “late musician” ? We thought this was about a rapper. People who shout into a microphone over cheesy drum machine patterns are not musicians.

    • Mae

      Booooooo you don’t get to define music. Lol have fun at home with ur Beethoven and warm milk while the rest of us bump Mac Dre and keep the Hennessey and good times comin


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