Magoo, the Virginia rapper who was part of the duo Timbaland & Magoo and featured on the hit songs “Up Jumps da Boogie” and “Luv 2 Luv U,” has passed away. He was 50.
Timbaland confirmed the news of Magoo’s death on Instagram. “This one hits different 🥲🥲🥲 long live Melvin aka magoo!!!💔💔💔 Tim and Magoo forever 🕊️🕊️🕊️ rest in peace my king,” the rapper-producer wrote. No further details or cause of death were provided.
Magoo was part of a collective of Virginia rappers and producers that rose to prominence in the mid to late 1990s, a group that included Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley of the Neptunes and NERD, the rap group Clipse and producer Danny. Magoo found mainstream success teaming up with longtime friend Timbaland to form the duo Timbaland & Magoo. The pair’s debut album Welcome to our world would go on to go platinum and become a classic, ushering in a period of chart success for Timbaland’s signature sound.
Born Melvin Barcliff in Norfolk, Virginia in July 1973, Magoo attended high school in Chesapeake. Contrary to popular belief, his rap name is not taken from the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, but from the surname of an aunt who raised him, which he later shortened to Magoo.
While still in high school in the early 1990s, he would get his start in music and hip-hop through breakdancing. He would be a co-founder of the group SBI, an acronym for Surrounded by Idiots, which was a Virginia Beach-based MCs that consisted of Magoo, Larry “Live” Lyons, and a young Timothy Mosley (aka Timbaland though he was known as DJ Timmy Tim at the moment) and Pharrell Williams. SBI recorded a few demos and played a few shows, but released no major recordings and quickly broke up.
After being spotted by Jodeci member and producer DeVante Swing, Magoo signed to Swing’s label Swing Mob and became a member of the creative collective called the Da Basement Cru, which included Missy Elliott and her group Sista, Timbaland, Ginuwine, Tweet and Playa. The collective recorded music and collaborated on Jodeci’s third album as well as their own projects. By 1995, the Swing Mob had folded and its members went it alone, but Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, Tweet and Timbaland & Magoo continued to work together under a loose collective called the Superfriends, which also included rising R&B star Aaliyah.
Magoo commented on his long friendship with the group of young Virginia rappers and producers who would go on to dominate mainstream music and win multiple Grammys. YouKnowIGotSoul in 2020: “I look back and think about it, who can say in their lifetime that they are friends with one of the greatest female artists of all time in Missy Elliott, three of the greatest producers of all time with Pharrell, Chad and Timbaland and some of the greatest groups of all time, like NERD and Clipse?”
He added: “We all rode in the same circle and we saw each other at different events and this was before the fame. In the end, we all made it because we were serious.”
Magoo would perform on Ginuwine’s 1996 song “G Thang” from the album Ginuwine… the bachelor and Missy Elliott’s 1997 song “Beep Me 911” from her debut album Supa Dupa Fly among other guest appearances before taking center stage with Timbaland & Magoo’s debut studio album Welcome to our worldreleased in November 1997.
Welcome to our world would become a crossover success, peaking at number 33 on the Billboard 200 and reaching platinum status. The album included the singles “Up Jumps da Boogie”, “Luv 2 Luv U” (with the memorable Magoo lyric “You so absurd I thought you hear/If you don’t know, the bird is the word/Yes the bird bird bird, the bird is the word/The bird bird bird, the bird is the word) and “Clock Strikes.” “Up Jumps da Boogie” was a huge club hit, peaking at No. 12 on the pop charts Billboard 100 and became a hip-hop classic. The album would be a showcase for Timbaland’s production sound that would find more mainstream success with albums by Ginuwine, Aaliyah and Missy Elliott.
As a rapper, Magoo was often compared to Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip due to their similar voices. The Q-Tip comparison frustrated Magoo, and he talked about it in an interview in 2020,,I had comparisons with Q-Tip because of my voice, but people don’t understand that I just sound like that. I’ve always sounded like this, even before I started rapping… I hate the Q-Tip comparisons because I’m a huge Tribe Called Quest fan, but I couldn’t help my voice.”
In 2001 Timbaland & Magoo was released Indecent proposal, their second studio album. The follow-up was nowhere near as successful as the duo’s debut, though it peaked at number 29 on the Billboard album chart, and the singles failed to chart on the Billboard 100. The pair released another studio album, 2003’s Under construction, part IIwhich again failed to replicate their early success, peaking at No. 50 on the Billboard album list. although Under construction spawned the single “Cop That Shit” featuring Missy Elliott, which became a radio hit.
Despite his success as a rapper, Magoo was never fond of fame and it was often mentioned in later interviews that he didn’t enjoy Timbaland & Magoo’s early success much. “I’m going to keep it real, I didn’t like any of that. I never felt like me and Tim got a chance to enjoy our early years and it never even felt like we were this million selling group,” he shared YouKnowIGotSoul.
A deep thinker, Magoo’s aversion to fame and the non-studio aspects of being a recording artist pushed him away from rapping and after his record deal expired in 2010, he largely retired from music, only performing sporadically on songs by his friends Timbaland and Missy Elliott. . “That’s why I ran away from it. The music business is a promise that cannot be kept and that is fame. When I had a number one number, I realized I might have been better with my 9-5 before I left Virginia,” he shared YouKnowIGotSoul. “It’s hard to be happy because you’re fighting for everything you’ve earned and you just don’t have time to enjoy it with your family. You’re not as close with friends anymore and people treat you differently once you get that hit. I’ve lived two different lives and being a celebrity was no fun.”
After he was no longer a recording artist, Magoo worked behind the scenes in the music industry.