LOS ANGELES (AP) — The rapper Magoo, known for his work in the hip-hop duo Timbaland & Magoo and hit song “Up Jumps da Boogie” featuring Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, has died. Magoo, a pioneer of the ’90 and early 2000s Virginia rap scene, was 50.
His wife Meco Barcliff told the New York Times that Magoo had no known health issues beyond asthma and had not been feeling well before his death over the weekend in Williamsburg, Va. Investigators are still looking into his cause of death.
Larry “Larry Live” Lyons, a close friend of Magoo’s who was also in the rap group Surrounded by Idiots (S.B.I.) with the late rapper, Pharrell Williams, and Timbaland (who went by DJ Timmy Tim at the time) shared a statement from Magoo’s family.
“Magoo’s memory will forever live on and his music will continue to inspire & uplift us! We ask for your understanding and respect as we process this loss and celebrate the life of a remarkable individual & our beloved son,” the statement said.
Magoo, born Melvin Barcliff, fell in love with hip-hop early on. Growing up in southern Virginia — at the time, a region that left a lot to be desired in terms of a rap scene — Magoo found kinship in like-minded teenagers such as Timothy Mosley (Timbaland) and later, other Virginia-based musical contemporaries like Pharrell and Missy Elliott.
In the early ‘90s, he co-founded the short-lived Surrounded by Idiots (S.B.I.) and joined Jodeci member and producer DeVante Swing’s Swing Mob label and Da Bassment Cru collective. When both dissolved, Timbaland & Magoo joined forces as a duo in 1995, releasing three full-length albums on the label Blackground: 1997’s “Welcome to Our World,” 2001’s “Indecent Proposal,” and 2003’s “Under Construction, Part ll.”
The former was their best-selling album, certified platinum by the RIAA, and featured guest spots from Ginuwine, Playa, Shaunta Montgomery, Buddha Brother, Big B and DJ Law. “Up Jumps da Boogie,” the duo’s debut single on the release, became Magoo’s best-known hit, spending 20 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chartand peaking at No. 12. With that gold record, and other popular album cuts like “Luv 2 Luv U (Remix)” and “Clock Strikes,” Magoo found mainstream success.
Magoo’s unique-in-rap higher-pitched voice and bouncy rhyme schemes proved a solid complement to Timbaland’s innovative, trend-setting production and the producer’s more relaxed vocals and filtered ad libs.
Their playful pop culture references invited in a wide range of listeners, with Magoo name-dropping Sonny and Cher, “Huckleberry Finn,” “Chip & Dale,” Ringo Starr and CeCe Winans in just one verse on “Luv 2 Luv U.” They were boastful but never took themselves too seriously, with a skit on their debut referring to the pair as “the boot boy and the cartoon character.”
On Monday, tributes from some of Magoo’s greatest collaborators and admirers began pouring in. “This one hits different,” Timbaland wrote on Instagram. “Long live Melvin aka magoo !!! Tim and Magoo forever. Rest easy my king.”
Missy Elliott recalled meeting Magoo for the first time on her Instagram. “These are the kind of post I don’t wish on any1,” she wrote, adding that Magoo gave her the nickname “Misdemeanor,” because he said about her, “it’s a crime to have that many talents,” when they worked on the song ” Beep Me 911.”
R&B singer Ginuwine also paid tribute, writing on Instagram, “I don’t even know how to say anything at this point…this dude, always pushed me…I will mis you maganooo that’s what we called him,” he wrote.
Magoo is survived by his wife, his stepdaughter Detrice “Pawtt” Bickham, as well as Magdaline and Hiawatha Brown, the aunt and uncle who raised him, and his two sisters, Portia Brown and Lynette Hawks.