How Did This Mazda Van Become a Hip-Hop Icon?

Every once in a while, something truly weird happens in the automotive world. And one of these times was when the Mazda MPV became a hip-hop icon. If you are familiar with hip-hop music of the 1990s, you have likely heard artists referencing the MPV. From the Wu-Tang Clan to Notorious B.I.G., many of the top rappers of the era were fans of this Mazda van. The MPV was certainly not a luxurious or flashy vehicle, so how did it find itself at the heart of 90’s hip-hop? It seems odd that a minivan managed to capture their attention.

What is the Mazda MPV?

The Mazda MPV was a van sold by Mazda, first introduced in 1988. It was a fairly crude vehicle, but you can find one with a V6 engine and four-wheel drive. In 1990 and 1991, it made Car and Driver’s Ten Best list, which is a fairly impressive feat. For a while, the MPV was one of the more popular minivans on the market. But once other manufacturers made competitors, it lost some of its luster. 

By 2006, Mazda discontinued MPV sales in Europe and North America. The brand replaced it with the CX-9 crossover, which is still available today. So, outside of Japan, this vehicle only had two generations. 

Who made the Mazda MPV popular?

According to AFH, Biz Markie is who initially made the Mazda MPV a popular van in the rap scene. The artist, who has hit songs like ‘Just A Friend,’ picked up two Mazda vans after seeing his friend’s MPV, Rich Porter. Now, there is some debate as to whether or not Markie was the one who popularized the MPV or Multi-Purpose Passenger Vehicle.

A Mazda MPV minivan shows of its subtle styling. An unlikely candidate to become a hip-hop icon.
Mazda MPV | Bull-Doser

Famously, DJ Premier had a decked-out Mazda MPV. The vehicle had an impressive speaker system, which made it a listening station for rappers. Ultimately, it does seem like the MPV was ideal for artists who did not want something run-of-the-mill. After all, who doesn’t like to be unique? Especially in a genre that is popular for its love of cars. 

Whoever made the MPV popular, it certainly became a hip-hop icon. You can hear it mentioned in tracks from Fat Joe, Prodigy, Diamond D, and many others. You could say it is almost as iconic as something like a ‘64 Impala or 5.0 Mustang. 

Does Mazda still make the MPV?

Mazda discontinued the MPV in 2006 for the United States, but it was not the last van the brand would sell. Shortly after the MPV went away, Mazda introduced the Mazda 5. Although it did not garner attention from the hip-hop community, the Mazda 5 is a solid choice for someone who wants a used van. It was sold until 2015, and even offered a manual transmission.

A white 2023 Mazda CX-5 small SUV is driving on the road.
The 2023 Mazda CX-5 | Mazda

Now, Mazda has turned its eye to crossovers and SUVs. Other markets still get minivans, but in the States, we get models like the Mazda CX-5 and Mazda CX-9. Which are still good vehicles.

Is the Mazda MPV reliable?

Maybe what helped make the MPV popular in the hip-hop scene was its reliability. It had an optional V6 engine and was fairly practical. In the song C.R.E.A.M. by Wu-Tang Clan, Raekwon has a famous namecheck of Mazda’s van, saying, “rollin’ in MPV’s, every week we made forty G’s.” It is kind of funny to imagine successful musical artists picking such a lowkey vehicle. 

A green 1997 Mazda MPV van sits in a parking lot.
Mazda Multi Purpose Van | Wiarthurhu

Is it possible that hip-hop helped put the MPV on the map? Potentially. And it’s not the only van that has found love in the rap game. On the cover of Kendrick Lamar’s hit album, ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city,’ there appears to be a Town and Country or Grand Caravan. Although those minivans do not get the same type of love the MPV does.

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