Romper Room Gang: Hip Hop and Posses in the Bay

January 14th, 2009

See a preview of the Romper Room Gang episode.

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"Meet the Gangsters"

The Romper Room gang and Mutulu Shakur.

Most of our “American Gangster” shows haven’t featured hip hop or a lot of music. It’s been hard to clear music for a crime show. With the Romper Room story we were able to mix hip hop, a bank robbery crew and a tragic murder, because we found a story where all these elements intersected. The late Mac Dre never became a national star, but in the Bay Area he is a legendary figure, both for his music and his affiliation with a crew of boyhood friends who robbed scores of Bay Area banks. DJ Vlad, a fixture in hip-hop circles known for his probing videos and the documenting hip-hop happenings, co-produced the Romper Room Gang episode.

“I grew up in the Bay Area. In 2002, a series of good and bad events triggered national exposure to the Bay Area music and lifestyle called ‘Hyphy’. E-40 released the song ‘Tell Me When to Go’. MTV did a special on the Bay called ‘My Block’ and Mac Dre died,” Vlad recently told me. “When I saw my hometown getting all that love, I picked up a camera and started documenting the various players involved in the movement – Mistah Fab, Keak da Sneak and Thizz Nation.  This footage eventually turned into the movie ‘Ghostride the Whip’, which was released in July 2007 from Image Entertainment.  During this filming, I spent a lot of time with Thizz Nation members J-Diggs and Stretch, and from their interviews the life and death story of Mac Dre was formed.”

“The main focus is on Mac Dre’s crew – The Romper Room Gang.  The Romper Room gang had robbed over 50 banks in California. Most of them had gone to jail, and some were still locked up.  The main hurdle we faced was getting the Romper Room members to talk about the robberies.  Most didn’t want to.  In fact, in the middle of our first day of filming they all showed up to the set, stopped the filming, and had a three-hour meeting on whether or not they want to give their story away for free.  Eventually, it was agreed that J-Diggs and Coolio da Undadogg would be the spokesmen for the crew and the project continued.”

The Romper Room story — a blend of hip hop, posse affiliation and the Bay Area — is the most youthful “American Gangster” to date.

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