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The Meaning of Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack”

Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” is one of the most popular R&B songs of the golden era that was the 90s. Released in 1996 as the third single from his debut album of the same name, “Return of the Mack” became an international hit for the UK-based artist.

Reaching number one in the UK made him the first black male solo artist to do so, plus the track remained on the US Billboard charts for 40 consecutive weeks.

Just as the funky-fresh “Return of the Mack” was peaking in popularity along with several other singles from the album, Mark Morrison found himself in trouble with the law when he was caught trying to bring a taser on on airplane. He served three months in prison for this, and while his career did recover afterward he was never quite able to produce another hit on the scale of “Return of the Mack”.

Lyrically, “Return of the Mack” is a song about bouncing back from a breakup better than ever. Today this is something that we would call a “glow up” phase where one is able to process things, learn, grow, and come out the winner in the relationship, even if they were the one who got dumped. This was first made popular by rapper Chief Keef in 2013 with the song “Gotta Glo Up One Day” .

This sentiment is not exclusive to relationships, and can be applied to any circumstance where you have a transformation into a more positive version of yourself. However, in the case of “Return of the Mack”, we are certainly talking about the aftermath of a relationship.

As for the meaning of “The Mack”, Oxford Languages defines it as “a confident, successful man who has many sexual partners.” In this instance it also works as a macho nickname for Mark, and it fits with the song’s theme of becoming confident and powerful.

Mark Morrison, or “The Mack”, late 90s.

Let’s take a closer look at how this unfolds in the lyrics, starting with the first verse:

Well, I tried to tell you so (Yes, I did)
But I guess you didn’t know
As the saddest story goes
Baby, now I got the flow
‘Cause I knew it from the start
Baby, when you broke my heart
That I had to come again
And show you that I’d win

First verse to “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison.

The opening verse has Morrison explaining to his ex-lover that he tried to tell her he would make a big comeback, but she apparently didn’t believe him. Now that it’s happened, he’s back to being a boss and he’s got the guts to tell her to go kick rocks, because she had her chance and she blew it.

In the buildup to the chorus, we get some insight as to what went down between these two:

You lied to me
All those times I said that I loved you
You lied to me
Yes, I tried, yes I tried
You lied to me
Even though you knew I’d die for you
You lied to me
Yes, I cried, yes I cried

Pre-chorus to “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison.

Morrison recalls how he tried his best to make things work, and he truly did love her, but she still lied to him and broke his heart. He felt down about this for a while, but it was only a matter of time before he rose from the ashes.

Moving into the chorus, we can see that he’s over it now, and The Mack is back, baby:

Return of the Mack (There it is)
Return of the Mack (Come on)
Return of the Mack (Oh my God)
You know that I’ll be back (Here I am)
Return of the Mack (Once again)
Return of the Mack (Top of the world)
Return of the Mack (Watch my flow)
You know that I’ll be back (Here I go)

Chorus to “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison.

Nothing can stop this newfound confidence, it seems.

In the second verse, Morrison reiterates that he is once again “the man”, and that he has come to terms with the facts of the breakup:

So, I’m back up in the game (Hustling slow)
Running things to keep my swing (All night long)
Letting all the people know
That I’m back to run the show
‘Cause what you did you know was wrong
And all the nasty things you’ve done (Oh, oh, oh)
So baby listen carefully
While I sing my comeback song

Second verse to “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison.

While he may be taking his time and moving slowing, he wants everyone to know that The Mack is back and better than ever. Doing so within the context of this incredibly catchy song is enough to make us believe him, because being able to co-produce a hit like this means you must be on top of your game.

The track closes out with a couple more hits of the pre-chorus into the chorus, giving the people on the dancefloor time to get into the groove, and the people at home enough of an earworm that they’ll want to run it back again.

Listen to “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison below.