Growing up near the ironically named Country Club Crest, Dre was subject to the crime and poverty that comes with living in a low-income area that had been destroyed by crack cocaine. Dre’s inventive lyrics and ability to articulate life in the Crest gave him instant credibility with his underground audience. However, before he could reach that audience, Mac Dre needed money, which is where his gang, the Romper Room came in.
According to Detective McGraw of the Vallejo Police Department (VPD), in a Black Entertainment Television (BET) documentary entitled American Gangster: Romper Room Gang, the Romper Room gang was a tightly knit band from the Crest. Two of these boys, Jamal Diggs and Simon “Kilo Curt” Curtis, would later mature into the main players in the Romper Room gang. Within the documentary’s narrative, Diggs states that the Romper Room gang’s name came from a kid’s show, and also due to the younger boys pulling pranks on the older “homeboys” from the gangs in the area. Soon, the gang’s criminal activities would evolve from drug dealing to bank robbery while Dre began to evolve from a neighborhood kid to an underground rap star.
According to Diggs, Dre’s first appearance as a rapper was at a local Boys Club. By the late 1980s, Dre had released his first song, “Too Hard For the Fucking Radio.” It was on a cassette tape, and was passed around until it became an “underground sensation.” Based on the success of “Too Hard For the Fucking Radio,” Dre released his first album, Young Black Brother, which coincided with the time the Romper Room gang began committing robberies, which police believed were financing Dre’s music.
During the early 1990s, the Romper Room gang needed a more lucrative way to earn money, and began doing “licks,” or robberies, of pizza parlors. According to Diggs, it was “easy money” if you picked the right pizza parlor, and robbed it at the right time. Diggs articulated that the robberies would be conducted in “takeover style” in which the robbers would quickly enter, secure any patrons and employees, demand money, and leave quickly. Diggs states that everything was always done in the same fashion, quick and methodical.