Legendary hip hop radio DJ Mr. Magic, who has been credited with broadening hip hop’s reach in its burgeoning years, died last week from a heart attack at age 53.
The radio jock influenced scores of hip hop fans with his seminal radio show “Rap Attack” which debuted on New York’s WBLS-FM in 1983. Mr. Magic, who was born John Angelo Rivas, has been name-checked in hip-hop lyrics for decades by rap luminaries such Nas and the Notorious B.I.G. and even got some Cali love from the late Tupac Shakur.
As the first DJ to helm a hip-hop show on commercial radio, Mr. Magic’s spins were integral to bringing the kinetic culture once contained by New York’s scrappy ‘hoods to the ears of millions of listeners nationwide. Magic’s show championed rap at a time when disco was on the wane and the record industry was apprehensive about the gritty art form. Later, Magic, his manager Fly Ty, and his engineer and fellow hip-hop icon Marley Marl, toured the country to do shows on radio stations around the nation. The shows' success carved out a space for hip-hop in America, on the airwaves and in pop culture.
Magic also played an active role in the culture as a member of the Juice Crew, a hip-hop collective that also included Big Daddy Kane and Biz Markie. Magic and his crew also engaged in a rivalry with KISS-FM Kool DJ Red Alert, who was affiliated famed rap posse Boogie Down Productions, which resulted in the classic hip hop dis tracks “The Bridge” and “The Bridge Is Over.” Younger hip hop fans may know Magic as a digital DJ in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Jay-Z - a hip hop icon in his own right - summed up his legacy telling WBLS, “he was just one of the pioneers that made [hip hop] what it is today.”