Remembering Mr Magic (RIP)-Hip Hop Loses It’s Frankie Crocker


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Remembering Mr Magic-Hip Hop Loses It’s Frankie Crocker

by Davey D and Mark Skillz

mr-magic-225Today just getting word that one of our Hip Hop pioneers has passed. As I started writing this we’re still trying to officially confirm, but according to what DJ Premier twitted earlier Mr Magic who was best known as being among the first to have a Hip Hop show on a major radio station has passed.  Still trying to process all this, because we’ve lost so many people this year. It was just a week or so ago we were mourning the passing of DJ Roc Raida.  For us in the Bay Area we lost a longtime KPFA  radio colleague and well known activist Gina Hotta. She passed of a heart attack. What we’re hearing w/ Mr Magic he too passed of a heart attack. He was 55 years old.

If you were around in the late 70s/early 80s then you will clearly understand what Magic meant to Hip Hop. For years he was the pinnacle. When he started out on WHBI, just hearing his show was major. It was a really big deal, because what we were doing in the parks, at rec centers and in our living rooms was insulated. No one else in the world knew what was bubbling up in the Bronx.  When Magic got picked up and was added to the line up of commercial station WBLS.. It was major. One of our own had graduated and was on the big stage. Saturday night was what so many of us eagerly looked foward to…Mr Magic with his booming voice gave Hip Hop that importance. He had what they call gravitas. He made you and Hip Hop official. He was a radio announcer not a kid doing college radio. He wasn’t someone shouting into a microphone. He was our Frankie Crocker, who was the legendary DJ and at the time program director for WBLS.

Was just talking to Hip Hop historian and writer Mark Skillz  who also grew up on Magic and he noted that Magic laid the ground work for every on air personality that came from the streets and made it to radio. He was always classy even when he was arrogant and he could sure be arrogant at times.  He was older than the average listener and fan of rap at that time and could’ve easily been associated with disco or soul music. But he put everything on the line because he really believed in the music. On a couple of occasions he was fired. The most infamous occasion was when he stood up to Frankie Crockerwho as mentioned was a legend in his on right. Crocker wanted to change formats and take rap off the air. Magic stood up to him and refused to change his show and was fired resulting in him returning to his first station WHBI.  Skillz added that its important to understand that back then and even recently, people paid to have a show on WHBI. You had to raise money to have a slot on the air.

Magic was important to two different eras of Hip Hop. He was the connection to the  pioneering day also known as True School. He was the one that brought us Flash, Mele-Mel, Crash Crew, Sugar Hill, Busy Bee etc.  he later became the important gateway to the what we now know as the Golden Era. He was once dubbed Sir Juice as he was the big connection and champion for the Juice Crew. Skill z was sharing memories with Sweet Gee this morning upon hearing the news and was reminded by G that the original Juice Crew was Sal Abbatiello, Sweet Gee, DJ June Bug, Kurtis Blow and Mr Magic aka Sir Juice.Sal who owned the Fever night club brought them all diamond rings. In many ways for  long before Diddy, Jay-Z  or the Jiggy era came along, Magic and his people personified flashiness within Hip Hop. They were smooth and represented the style of the day.  

Skillz was  recounting seeing Magic wearing rings on every finger and having  gold rope chains. He used to sport a shark skin suit. He was a Hip Hop version of Mr Tee. Back then that was Hip Hop at its finest for better or for worse.

When he got his Rap Attack show on WBLS he was the man. Folks old enough will recall what it meant to record a Mr Magic show. Those cassette tapes got passed all around the world. He was that dude. Interestingly enough Magic followed the important tradition long established by Black radio DJs of being our mouthpiece and Griot of sorts. In many ways he was the face of Hip Hop and our ambassador. He was our connection to the outside world, the corporate world etc. When his show came on, all of New York stopped what they were doing and tuned in.  Words are simply inadequate so others reading this will have to add in.

We also recall the role that Magic played in sparking the infamous bridge wars between the Bronx via KRS and BDP and Queens via the Juice Crew. Magic was so important that if he didn’t play your record or publicly rejected you as he did BDP,  it wasn’t a thing to easily shake off.  I won’t get into along recounting of that tale, but lets just say a lot of careers were born through the BDP vs Juice Crew saga. The attention he garnered help heighten the position of than rival DJ Red Alert who was holding it down and backing BDP on Kiss FM while Magic backed Marley Marlwho was his official deejay along with the Juice Crew as we know them today on WBLS…Also on a side note lets stress the fact that the battle was more like a battle of the bands and not the type of vicious beefs where folks get shot or beaten up. It was competitive, theatrical and capitivating

We also need to remember as Paradise of X-Clan pointed  out  Mr Magic also gave Whodini their first break .Jalil used to answer the phones to his show. Hence the group’s first song ‘Mr Magic’s Magic Wand.

So many memories its hard to really do justice. .. For those who remember Mr Magic please share. 

In closing I’d be wrong not to point out the 800 pound gorilla in the room. I’m talking healthcare. I’m not sure what Magic’s finances or personal situation was, but dying of a heart attack while in your 50s is not a good look and should be a wake up call for us all on a number of levels. One one level is for us to seriously look at how we’re living. Stress and strife are taking its toll. Stress from finances, stress from work, stress from living in dangerous situations silently and suddenly do us in.  On another level, many of us have not taken care of ourselves with routine check ups and visits to the doctor to help us avoid such tragedies. We shouldn’t forget as Skillz points out that it was only a few years ago that Magic’s DJ Marley Marl had a heart attack. We also lost Professor Xwho was also around the same age through meningitis.   Was it lack of health insurance or bad and fast living? I can’t call it, but all of us need to sit back and ask why we have lost so many people at young ages this year. It hasn’t been shootings its been failing health..

Hip Hop pioneer Kurtis Blow reminded us that Mr Magic put a record  Its a rare gem and it has him rapping. Its called “Its a Better Way’

RIP Mr Magic

Something to Ponder

-Davey D-

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15 comments on “Remembering Mr Magic (RIP)-Hip Hop Loses It’s Frankie Crocker

  1. R.I.P. – Mr. Magic! I go back to the times when you heard the same songs a couple of times during the Magic Show because there weren’t that many records out at that time and looked forward to the end of the show when Marley would just mix for the last hour.

    Davey, you also hit the nail on the head. It unacceptable that so many of our pioneers are making their transitions so early. The Marley Marls, Red Alerts, etc, know that the world of hip-hop cherishes you and we need you around! Take care of yourselves in a real way please!

  2. “Mr. Magig’s Rap Attack” – 1979 on WHBI, NJ. The man that put Rap back on the radio at WBLS – rest in peace – Mr. Magic. “We’ll get the history right, Brother”.

  3. magic we go back to 1978 on whbi sundaynights/monday morning 2-4am, thank goodness for neicey colon’s daughter telling her mother who was wbls music director at the time to put magic on at wbls, there was a time back in 1982 that a trade magazine called disc n dat did an article on mr magic calling him the next frankie crocker, rip mr magic.

  4. Pingback: Jesse Serwer » Blog Archive » R.I.P. Mr. Magic: Whodini on Mr. Magic

  5. Davey D,

    I thank you for this column and a well written synopsis of the late great legend Mr. Magic. Thank you for sharing this highly great information, because the younger generation of Hip Hop is need of this information and history. A well written tribute and thank you for your gift of writing.

  6. Well written Davey! You pretty much covered it all, although it’s impossible to do justice to the raw energy and excitement that surrounded his show; you could feel it emanate from your radio, it was palpable. A truly beautiful time for Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture; For us it was our 60s!

    Just one side note about the Rap Attack show on WHBI. Anyone who listened to that show in the late 70s and tried to call in to the listener “Check in” and do a “Shout Out” (which Mr. Magic originated by the way!) remembers how damn near impossible it was to get through for one, but also that what was almost just as entertaining as the show was the action taking place behind the busy signals you got when you called in. For some strange reason, I’m sure in part to the volume of calls being placed, there was this wasteland of listeners who didn’t get through but could hear and interact with one another in between the loud intermittent busy signal tones. The consolation prizes for not getting through to Magic was getting the number to some honey digit by digit in between the busy tones! So not only was Mr. Magic’s show responsible spreading Rap Music and Hip-Hop culture throughout the City and eventually the world, but it was also one of the forerunners to the modern day Party Chat Lines!

    Now that is truly a legacy!

    Mr. Magic, a true Hip-Hop Pioneer and Legend!
    R.I.P.

  7. Davey,

    You know I always said that our diets plays an important part for us as older hip hop heads
    in the industry. Bad eating habits, late night hanging out, d.j. giging 3 to 4 days out of the week, and most
    important no exercise. We must change our lifestyle.

  8. Pingback: Remembering Mr Magic (RIP)-Hip Hop Loses It’s Frankie Crocker | Happily Natural

  9. As a teenager growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., listening to Mr. Magic was a must. There was truly something “magical” about Mr. Magic. I remember him on HBI and he played “Dollar Bill Yall” by Jimmy Spicer. When I heard that, I flipped out. I live in Baltimore, Md. and I didn’t find out about Mr. Magic’s passing until last night (December 29) when I was listening to a rap song that mentioned his passing. So, Rest In Peace Mr. Magic. Your work here on Earth is done. You touched many lives to include my own and for that I am truly grateful. I am a local mobile DJ here in Baltimore and I am going to create a mix CD and dedicate it to you. Thanks for the memories.

  10. i have plenty of those cassettes with mr magic from friday and sat nights on bls just was listening to them today

  11. What an excellent website. You guys have done a great job organizing everything and making the navigation easy to browse. How can I subscribe to your RSS feed? If you have one please let us know how to get more great information from your website.

  12. I couldn’t stay awake until 2am to hear Mr. Magic’s show, so I would put on my alarm that would wake up the whole apartment just so I could record his show. In my heart, I know that somehow God allowed auto-reverse cassette recorders to be designed by the Japanese just so that we South Bronx B-boys could record most of his show on a 120 minute cassette in the event we fell asleep!! Mr. Magic was the bomb. It was a sad day for me if I would forget to set the alarm for his show. If you taped a show that night, you had the baddest tape for your boom box for the entire week! Everyone wanted a copy! Thank you Mr. Magic for what you did for us South Bronx kids – you made our street music relevant and shared it to the world. God bless your soul, and may others imitate you to continue bringing talent to the forefront in a grassroots way.

  13. mr magic; the voice of hip hop. this guy was fresh. cool .dapper and all that. a great lost 4 all of us . i never been too new york;;but i still can tell you the magic & MARLEY SAGA. wit 98.7 kiss f.m. mr magic was so cool he had the voice 4 wbls .me an my boys could not wait 4 those guys to get back from n y. to get a hold on the rap attack tapes .an we are from jacksonville fl . i tune in 2 z share just to hear the old magic m p 3 tracks i have about 13 hours of sir juice .thanks 2 da guys that sent them in…we love you mr.magic and this is 4 you. remember b yo self or u mite find yo self by yo self.

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