When I discovered that one of hip-hop’s pioneers, John “Mr. Magic” Rivas, 53, suffered a heart attack and was called home to rest, I took a quantum leap to a time when hip hop was the love of my life.
It was Mr. Magic who ignited a love affair between my pubescent, pre-feminista self and a testosterone-driven genre and artform that left me breathless and wide open. Even before the globalization of hip-hop, Mr. Magic was the E.F. Hutton of hip hop. His historically unprecedented weekly radio show, “Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack” (formerly Mr. Magic Disco Showcase) was the first mixtape show on commercial radio and proved that he kept his ear to the streets and instinctively had every B-Girl and B-Boy tuned in as if their signature stance and lives depended on it.
As Magic tapped his wand to christen the hottest new joints to permeate the airwaves and baptize rap loyalists in the spirit of hip-hop’s rebellion, his indelible power to make or break an MC (with DJ Marly Marl backing him on the wheels-of-steel) immortalized him in song from Whodini’s tribute, “Magic’s Wand,” to the late B.I.G.’S “Juicy.”
Not only was Magic the cofounder of rap music’s early 80s heavyweights rap collective, The Juice Crew (MC Shan, Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, Craig G and Kool G rap, Roxanne Shante, Masta Ace, Tragedy Khadafi, Biz Markie, Ty Williams), but he was also known for inciting the lyrical riots and interborough battles between TJC and KRS1’s Boogie Down Productions. He presented the cult classic anthem, “The Bridge,” by Queens-bred MC Shan while his rival, DJ Red Alert, introduced BDP’s bass-heavy, retaliatory ode, “The Bridge Is Over,” and musical homage “South Bronx.” Ironically, Magic’s rap rivalry instilled a healthy pride that swelled through each borough.
Make no mistake that as a Fly Girl from the B-X my around-the-way-girl chic was a must. Peep this: my funky fresh gear was laced with all of hip-hop’s sartorial trappings– name-earrings and chain, lenseless, 14kt-gold accented Cazals, Le Tigre polo, permanent-creased Lees and white-on-white Addidas with or without the fat laces. And trust, I was religious with mine: every Saturday me and Mr. Magic had a secret rendezvous. Unbeknownst to Ma Dukes, I invested my weekly allowance in 60-minute, TDKs or if I was balling with some extra dough I splurged and upgraded to a 90-minute Maxwell casettes to capture the hardcore beats pulsating from Magic’s New York WBLS studios into my urban deluxe bedroom in the sky located in the South Bronx’s Mitchell Houses. Shoot, as I perfected and paced a rhythmic headnod I easily became numb to the blistering of my index finger from pausing my tape to ensure that my commercial-free master mix was official: 100 percent hip-hop proof.
On Mondays, me and my homies created our own cipher in my junior high school lunchroom, challenging one another on how well we recited the latest Magic-certified hit. For those who fell short and lacked a flow the punishment was severe: they were F-listed and inducted into the Yous-A-Straight-Herb Hall of Fame. And you better believe that when Magic released five volumes of “Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack” between 1983 and 1985 it only upped the ante between me and my crew. In recent years, I had the pleasure of savoring hip-hop nostalgia as Magic hosted Wildstyle Pirate Radio on “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.”
Yep, those were the good ol’ days when a fly honey dip from Uptown fell in love with hip-hop and my Magic man had me under his spell–rocking my tapes until my tapes popped all night long.
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