A rapper whose gritty soliloquies have captured the imagination of East Bay music fans is behind bars, facing bank robbery charges and, police say, leading a life too much like his own lyrics.

Andre Hicks, who performs under the stage name Mac Dre, was taken into custody on federal bank robbery charges, accused with two other men of an aborted robbery attempt at a Fresno bank.Police say the 21-year-old Hicks is part of a loosely knit group suspected of as many as 13 bank robberies and 30 pizza parlor stickups in Vallejo and other East Bay cities since the first of the year.

Members of the group, lifelong friends and residents of the Country Club Crest neighborhood not far from Marine World, have been called the Romper Room Gang, although Vallejo police declined to use that name.

"There are a number of players and overlapping names," said Vallejo police Detective Richard Nichelman. "Mr. Hicks is a key figure in our investigation, one of many other key figures in our investigation."

The gang - heavily armed, highly mobile and with a penchant for aggressive "takeover-style" robberies - was believed to have netted about $50,000 during their assaults on local pizza outlets. Police declined to say how much was netted during the bank robberies.

Hicks' arrest is the latest in a string of encounters with law enforcement, details of which he often recounted in the lyrics of his two rap albums - his last just recently released by his producer, Romp Productions.

On the tape, Hicks dedicates the song to "Detective McGraw," an apparent reference to Detective Dave McGraw, one of several Vallejo detectives investigating the robberies.

Taunting the police, especially Vallejo police, was a Mac Dre trademark, officers say.

His second tape, "What's Really Going On?" features a song called "Punk Police" and says "the biggest gangsters are on the V.P.D," a not-so-thinly veiled reference to Nichelman's department.

"I hope people realize whose albums they've been buying now we've made an arrest - and there was sufficient cause to make an arrest, " Nichelman said. "I think you have to look at the perspective of the victim looking down the other side of the gun barrel."

But local record distributors said Hicks/Mac Dre's rap efforts remain popular with local teens, who have been asking about the release of his second album for some time.