In prison, Hicks gained some notoriety by recording the lyrics to songs directly over the Fresno County jail inmate telephone. His album, Young Black Brotha, was a result of such efforts, as well as guest appearances on fellow artists' songs, all while Hicks was still imprisoned. A later album, Back 'N Da Hood, was also made up of these prison-recorded songs. While recording in prison, Mac gained respect.
After his release from prison in 1996, Mac Dre began releasing albums steadily, building pace in the early 21st century. Mac Dre's audience was growing, and mainstream hip-hop stations were beginning to give Hicks' music more airtime. Hicks relocated to Sacramento, California in 2001, where he began a label, Thizz Entertainment. A notorious ecstasy enthusiast, he is credited with coining the slang verb to thizz, which refers to the state of being high on the drug. He is the foremost precursor of the current Hyphy movement, a hip hop subculture based around ecstasy use, club drugs, and "feel good" music in general. He is also recognized as part of the Thizz Movement, which is very similar to the Hyphy movement.
A common theme in Mac Dre songs is his reputation as a "mac" or a man that women would pay to have sex with them. Songs like "Northside" and "Feelin' Myself" all make references to this aspect of his life.
On November 1, 2004, Returning to Kansas City, Missouri. A car pulled up next to the white desiel carrying Dre. Though it is not known whether words were exchanged, the ordeal ended in bloodshed. The van swerved off the road and into a ravine where it ran into a tree. Mac Dre apparently died from a gunshot wound to the back of the neck, although he was thrown from the vehicle and wasn't found immediately after the accident. In 2005 due to a large amount of suspicion, Kansas City rapper Anthony "Fat Tone" Watkins was murdered in Las Vegas, allegedly by Bay Area rapper and Dre's good friend Mac Minister, in retaliation for Hicks' death. The body of a prostitute, 21-year-old Lee Danae Laursen, was found in Fairfield, CA in November 2005; Laursen had been in the company of Mac Minister (Andre Dow) and Jason Mathis in Las Vegas when Watkins was murdered. In March 2006, Dow was arrested by FBI officials and both Dow and Mathis were indicted on murder charges in the Watkins murder. Some in the rap community initially suspected the March 2007 shooting death of Johnny Cash (Johnny Castaneda, a/k/a "The Fast Gunna") to be related to the Mac Dre killing; however, officials attributed Castaneda's death to unrelated "street violence".
On the weekend of the August 26, 2006, Hicks' tombstone was stolen from his final resting place at the Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, California. AP.9, a rapper who was close to Hicks offered a $10,000 reward out of his own pocket for anyone who had any information on the location of the tombstone. AP.9 stated that he believed the theft had nothing to do with Hicks murder. The tombstone has since been replaced.