I've been rather conflicted all day while trying to wrap my head around such a great loss. I didn't really know whether to put my thoughts up here like this. This is solely to further pay homage to the man, and to help get correct info on his legacy out there.
First, I want to just say thank you to another hero of mine, DJ Premier, for putting together a concise and kind write up upon hearing the news.
I feel truly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with Magic and Ty on Down The Dial, a project I had wanted to do for a long time. It was impossible for the concept to come into fruition without them, so without a doubt, as cliche as it sounds, they made a dream come true, and I will never forget that.
I'm getting ahead of myself here though. Let's talk about his contributions and back story.
I posted this audio back in an April write up (When Magic Met Cavett), but once again, here is an interview Magic did on the Dick Cavett Morning show in 1984. He talks about how he first got into radio, among other things.
Mr. Magic Interview with Dick Cavett (From April 20th, 1984 Tape)
(I apologize for a few of those "Will C." drops in the above audio. They were placed in there back in April, but under these circumstances, they seem rather obnoxious tonight).
The following information has all been dictated to me over the years by his business partner and friend, Tyrone "Fly Ty" Williams, and I am striving to make this as accurate as can be from what I've learned from him and Magic himself.
John Rivas was born on March 15, 1956. This would make him 53... too young to go. As a radio personality, he was highly successful throughout the 1980s with his show Mr. Magic's Rap Attack (earlier named The Mr. Magic Disco Showcase). He was one of the original members of the Juice Crew, and, due to his booming voice and tendency to be outspoken on air, was dubbed "The Official Voice of Hip Hop."
His days on radio began on WHBI FM (Newark, NJ) as early as 1979, with the late DJ Junebug, where DJs would pay to play (approximately $75/hour at the time). The show aired from 2-4 AM. Rap music was worked into the Disco Showcase format whenever possible, but since there were not even enough rap records to fill an entire time slow (these were the early days for rap on wax), it was not uncommon to also hear records by popular R&B, soul, and even rock groups getting spins.
With the death of DJ Junebug, an up-and-coming DJ was brought on board- the now iconic DJ Marley Marl. With a dedicated fan base, the show now known as the Rap Attack was gaining momentum, and moved from WHBI to 107.5 WBLS (New York). With that came the transformation from paying to play to being paid to broadcast to a bigger audience.
In 1984, the Rap Attack show had some of the highest ratings in the city. However, as I have been told, WBLS' General Manager, Charles Warfield, was not particularly into rap music. He wanted Magic to host the station's newest easy-listening format show, The Quiet Storm. Upon refusing, Magic was fired from the station. In other words, he stuck up for what he believed in, a music culture many of us love, and had plans to keep his mixshow alive and well.
Settling in back at WHBI with his show, his momentum would not cease. With further success, he began broadcasting on WDAS in Philadelphia, WEBB in Baltimore, and Z100 in Columbus, Ohio, helping spread the music to different parts of the United States. His success, coupled with the fact that WBLS needed somebody to compete with DJ Red Alert at 98.7 KISS FM (among other NYC hip hop DJs), led to him being hired back by WBLS. He returned on May 10, 1985, and aired on Fridays from 10:00 PM - 2:00 AM, and Saturdays from 8:00 PM - 12:00 AM.
The Rap Attack show was very exciting for listeners. You never knew what Magic was going to say. Sometimes he would dis records, but more importantly, he was instrumental in breaking countless records in the region, from UTFO's Roxanne Roxanne to the Disco 3's Fat Boys. Check it out below (from the April post here Cavett Conclusion / Fat Boys World Premiere / Busy Bee (Suicide Era) on Rap Attack)
Fat Boys Interview and World Premiere (04.20.1984)-
Magic's production alias was M². Under that name, he helped produce rap hits like The Force M.D.'s Let Me Love You and the Fearless Four's Problems of the World Today. This is further discussed in another April article here, The Production Alias (though I can't believe I completely blanked on mentioning Problems of the World Today there!).
"WHBI Rewind & Classic Sign Off 1981" / "Super Blast" (From Down The Dial)-
Whodini- "It's All In Mr. Magic's Wand"-