China Mac is a Chinese-American, Brooklyn-born rapper and former gang member who was released from jail last year after serving an 11-year prison sentence for shooting — and partially paralyzing — fellow rapper Christopher Louie back in 2003.
Mac, whose real name is Raymond Yu, did not have the typical upbringing. His father was part of the Flying Dragons, a well-known and extremely violent Chinese American gang that was heavily active in the ‘80s for murders, kidnapping and drug trafficking.
“[My Father] was actually one of the top guys. He was never around; I really didn’t know him like that. I grew up, and I hated him actually. I [wanted] to be everything that he wasn’t. But instead of me going to school and doing the right thing, I was like, ‘I’m going to be a gangsta.”
At 12 years old, Yu joined the Ghost Shadows Gang, which were rivals of the Flying Dragons Gang at that time.” Back then, his nickname was “G-Kay.” According to Yu, getting into the gang was relatively simple:
“There wasn’t really an initiation. We just had to go in front of the Buddha and profess our loyalty to the gang. Then we drank chicken blood. That was the ritual. You had do whatever they ask you to do. Because I wanted to be accepted, I would always go the extra mile. I figured out the more ruthless, violent I was, the more respect I gained.”
Yu admitted that acceptance was the driving force behind his joining the gang:
“As a child, I felt like my father didn’t want me because he was never around. My mother was 17 or 18 when she had me. My mother had to work two jobs to support us.”
During his tenure in Ghost Shadows, Yu dealt drugs and committed robberies in order to make money — among other things required by the gang. Yu explained:
“They would pay us money to watch the gambling houses. We would watch the street and we would get a stipend for watching the street — you’re just standing on the street and making sure no rival gang members are coming to the street.”
Yu was introduced to hip-hop at 8 years old and quickly fell in love with it. In his teens, he would write songs and and engage in freestyle battles with other inmates at the juvenile detention centers he spent time in.
He says that jail officers would routinely bet money on these battles. His talent once even saved him from a cell drug search:
“There was one time when the search came to our [cell] and my boy had a shitload of weed in there and was like, ‘Oh man we’re gonna lose out.’ And then the Captain was like, ‘Yo I heard there’s a Chinese kid in here that can rap. So the only way you’re gonna beat this cell search is if he gets up here and raps and I like it.’ So I got up did my rap, and true to his words they left.”
In 2000, Yu, then 18, was handed a three-year prison sentence for gang-related crimes. Less than five months after his release, however, he landed in hot water again for an incident involving then Ruff Ryder artist MC Jin at New York City club Yello.
According to Yu’s account, Jin had “disrespected” the wife of one of his friends who was in prison at the time. Yu then confronted Jin in the club’s bathroom, after which a Jin associate — Christopher Louie — allegedly rushed in with a knife. Yu pulled out a gun intending to shoot Louie in the head, but the gun jammed on the first try. On his second try, Yu ended up shooting him in the back.
From there, Yu went on the run for over a year until he was apprehended in Seattle, Washington, with a fake passport while attempting to flee to Canada.
“I had a fake passport. If you’re in a car and your passport registers, then you’re good. You don’t have to go through the search or anything unless they pull you over. Nine out of 10 you’re gonna pass through that thing. I was going to get in the car with all of them, but my mother told me that she went to the Buddhist temple, and the Buddhist temple told her that I have to leave on this day. Long story short, I got caught that day.”
“When you’re hungry and desperate, there’s no telling what I would have done. I’m glad that I got arrested and glad that I got caught so that I can serve my time and get that shit over with so it’s not looming over my head, and fix what I can fix within.”
Yu then spent the next 10 years in prison. He admits that he thinks about how lucky he was that the gun jammed during the incident. If it hadn’t, the bullet to Louie’s head most likely would have killed him and Yu would’ve spent life in prison.
“I hated every day that I was in prison, but I love every lesson that I learned in prison. Lessons that I learned in prison proved to be invaluable right now. It’s making me the difference. It’s a gift and a curse. Prison in a lot of ways saved me, taught me a lot of things that I might have not learned anywhere else.”
While in prison, Yu received his rap moniker “China Mac” from a gang member inmate:
“It was given to me by a gang leader. So there’s a set in the Bloods called ‘Mac Ballers’. When I was in jail, they were always trying to get me to be part of those gangs. But I never did it. I always had an affinity with [them] because I grew up with a lot of those dudes. I grew bonds with them, so they used to always call me ‘China Mac.’ I just decided to switch my name to that. I didn’t want to come back home as ‘G-Kay’ because I wanted a fresh slate.”
When he wasn’t working on his music while in prison, Yu says he studied business and would regularly make his cellmates watch Shark Tank with him.
“A lot people when they go to prison, they submerge. Everything they do is prison stuff. They won’t do anything to educate themselves, to bring themselves outside of that prison. So they would watch TV, play basketball, talk shit on the gate. But they’re not doing anything to remove themselves, mentally, outside of prison. When I was in prison I read every single business magazine. I had all the subscriptions to the business magazines.”
Yu, now 33, came home from prison with a total of $7,000, which he earned from selling drugs and “hustling” in prison. He says that he used the money to start his record label Red Money Record, a recording studio, and a pet store his mom now runs.
“I’m a businessman. I’m gonna do whatever I feel is going to bring me the bucks. As long as I’m not selling myself short or anything to go against my morals, principles and my freedom.”
In addition to his business ventures, Yu released a collaboration song, “The Yard,” with Jadakiss last year, along with “Buck a Cop,” a song on police brutality, which he alleges was responsible for his missing front tooth.
Reflecting on the crimes he committed in the past, Yu said:
“I did a lot of stupid shit. I did a lot of stuff to cause pain and grief for people that didn’t deserve it. For that I regret it. I did some other things where I hurt people that didn’t deserve it. Now as I’m older, in retrospect, I look back at it with an air of ‘I shouldn’t have did that.’ But you live and you learn. If I didn’t do those things I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today.”