By: Richard Freedman firstname.lastname@example.org @RichFreedmanVTH on Twitter
Wanda Salvatto realized her son was an important figure in the hip hop community. But it wasn’t until Andre Hicks – better known as “Mac Dre” – died by gunfire in 2004 that his mother truly understood his impact.
“I didn’t realize how big his presence was across the United States,” said Salvatto, leaning her own moniker, “Mac Wanda,” in producing the third annual “Mac Dre Day” on July 5 in San Francisco at the Regency Ballroom.
Because Mac Wanda’s handling of all that’s been Mac Dre took such an emotional chunk out of her, “I never really got a chance to mourn and grieve” after the performer died in Kansas City following a concert, she said.
The stories from Dre’s fans “became more important than my story about him. It was more important for me to pay attention to what other people were going through,” Mac Wanda said. “This (the annual show featuring young hip hop artists) became my way of grieving. “This event fills that void.”
The inaugural “Mac Dre Day” wasn’t easy, she said.
“I was really sad. It was really hard,” Mac Wanda said. “The second year, I went through the phase of being angry. Now, I’m at a point of accepting it and now it’s a positive thing, a good thing and it’s growing. It makes me feel happy.”
Producing the annual tribute to her son “makes me feel happy,” Mac Wanda said, thrilled to be “providing jobs and a showcase for up-and-coming rap artists who might not otherwise have a chance to get on stage. Through me, I feel like Andre’s giving back and giving opportunities.”
Though, admittedly, Mac Wanda frets that something negative will happen at the tribute show, “the first and second went so well – not a fight or anything. I think fans understand that it (the show’s organizer) is his mother.”
Mac Wanda said she has close to 25,000 Instagram followers who admired Dre, “so there’s a huge respect there. I go to the concert, walk around, greet people. And there’s been no violence, so I’m less and less worried about that than the first couple of years. So far, it’s been pretty positive.”
Though Mac Dre was quite successful – he found Thizz Entertainment and recorded 11 solo albums and videos – his popularity would have really exploded during the social media age, his mother said.
“I’m sure it would have catapulted his career around the world,” Mac Wanda said.
Even 14 years after his death at 34, Mac Dre “is becoming and more popular across the country,” Mac Wanda said, acknowledging the impact of social media and a more lenient society.
“I think his career took longer because when he started to rap, radio stations would only play a certain type of rap. His lyrics couldn’t be used then, but could now. They couldn’t play anything back then that was considered explicit or x-rated.”
“Unfortunately, he was way ahead of his time,” Mac Wanda said.
Yes, as a mother, she worried about her son’s explicit lyrics’ influencing young people.
“I still worry about that,” Mac Wanda said. “When young kids are in a car listening to it, I kinda cringe.”
However, she added, “It’s art. I get it now. And some of his stuff is tame compared to what I see now.”
Mac Wanda realized her son had musical chops when he was 17 or 18 “when he started to perform on stage. I’d go to some of the concerts and see the reaction of the crowd. I realized this was his calling; that he was serious about this.”
Even without mainstream media or the social media of today, “he continued to gain popularity and got requests to travel state-to-state to do shows,” Mac Wanda said.
Because of “lots of gangs and stuff” at the time, Mac Dre realized “there was always a chance he could be shot because of the crowd,” his mom said. “He talked about the chance of something happening to him.”
On Nov. 1, 2004, Mac Dre was in a van leaving his concert in Kansas City when an unknown assailant fired several times, killing the former Vallejo rapper living in Sacramento at the time.
The shooter was never caught.
“At this point, it doesn’t matter one way or another to me,” Mac Wanda said. “It wouldn’t change a thing. It wouldn’t bring Andre back. In my mind, whoever did this, they know they did it. Whoever did it has to live with it and live with the fact Mac Dre’s popularity continues to grow.”
Mac Wanda said Mac Dre was always mentoring younger rap artists, which she continues with “Mac Dre Day.”
This year’s performers include Mac Dre Day, Mally Mall hosts with featuring performances by Tyga, Nef The Pharaoh, Yhung TO, Sneakk, Yhung CEO, Lil Sheik, Philthy Rich, and Coolio Da Unda Dogg.
“Every year when it’s over, I feel really good,” Mac Wanda said. “I feel blessed. I feel honored that people spend money and come all the way to San Francisco. The kids want to come out and acknowledge my son and the impact he made on their lives makes me feel warm. I just hug everybody and put my arms around everyone in the audience.”
For more information about “Mac Dre Day,” visit theregencyballroom.com.