ROMPER ROOM GANG
Business: Bank Robbery
Region: Vallejo, Calif.
Claim to Fame: Robbers Turned Rappers
Downfall: set crimes to music
Sentence: 5-20 years
Status: Mac Dre was murdered
Lesson: Don’t keep the music that real
This group of notorious homegrown bank robbers, from the troubled Bay Area suburb of Vallejo, robbed dozens of banks in that area in the mid-’90s. Convicted rap artist Mac Dre was among the gang’s friends and fellow travelers. After serving five years in prison, Dre emerged as a major underground figure in Bay Area hip hop and nurtured the careers of several other “romper room” robbers-turned-rappers as well, putting Vallejo on the map as a center for music and gangster-dom. Dre and his cohorts also developed a big following in Kansas city – where he was murdered after a concert in 2004 – allegedly by a Kansas City rapper he once worked with, named “Fat Tone” Watkins, who’d recorded a rap song insinuating his involvement in the crime. That set off a revenge killing, as “Fat Tone” was killed in Las Vegas.
Since his death, Mac Dre has become an icon in the Bay Area, and especially in Vallejo, where violent crime remains out of proportion to its size and locale and which recently made headlines as the first city in California history to declare bankruptcy. Dre’s legacy is carried on there by former friends and partners in crime who are now blazing new paths as artists and businessmen, although they are still shadowed by their pasts.
CATCH IT ON BET TONITE - 1/15/09