Two days ago (August 13th as I write this) Digital Black from the group Playa made a post on Instagram saying that Melvin Barcliff, better known to the rap world as Magoo, had passed away at 50 years old. That’s obviously not the kind of thing you want to state without knowing for sure, but there was a very good chance Black knew exactly what he was talking about, because their mutual friend Timbaland produced large parts of Playa’s debut album including their signature hit signal “Cheers 2 U.” It won’t surprise you to know Magoo had a cameo on their album, or that Playa was featured on Magoo & Timbaland’s first album “Welcome to Our World.” Timbaland’s friends were all tight.

Since that time Rolling Stone and HipHopDX have both confirmed Magoo’s passing. The cause of death is at this time unknown although the Chief Medical Examiner for Virginia’s Tidewater District is currently investigating. If it wasn’t already obvious you really can’t discuss Magoo without discussing Tim “Timbaland” Mosley. The two were childhood friends along with Missy Elliott, and Magoo is the one credited with giving the latter her “Misdemeanor” nickname, reportedly because “it was a crime to be good at so many things” (paraphrased). Their fortunes rose together in the 90’s thanks to Timbaland’s signature production, one which positioned Norfolk to be an unexpected new capital of hip-hop and R&B.

Magoo’s vocal tone and style was frequently compared to Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest, but neither Phife Dawg (RIP) nor Tip were rapping over the futuristic sounds of songs like “Up Jumps Da Boogie.” Tim’s sound and Magoo’s recognizable delivery proved to be a “peanut butter and jelly” combination that the Billboard charts and dance clubs alike ate up. Whether or not you were a fan of Magoo’s style you couldn’t deny how infectious their singles were, especially when Timbaland dropped tracks like “Clock Strikes” that sampled the theme from 1980’s TV show Knight Rider.

For reasons that are entirely his own and unknown to us, Magoo entered into a quiet retirement after 2003’s “Under Construction Part II,” his third and final collaboration with Mr. Mosley. It certainly wasn’t because their friends had a falling out. Even though Magoo wasn’t recording full albums any more he was still making cameos on projects by Tim and Missy, with the most recent coming a decade ago on Elliott’s track “Warped.” In 2021 Blackground Records signed a deal to reissue all of their original Timbaland & Magoo albums, which subsequently resulted in the re-release of music videos like “Cop That Shit” featuring all three.

Although Magoo and his wife Meco Barcliff separated several years ago, she told the New York Times that the two were still close and that he had “no known health issues” other than asthma. Our condolences to her and to the entire Barcliff family, as well as to friends and fans of Melvin “Magoo” Barcliff worldwide. It’s a sudden and shocking blow to the hip-hop community but it always is when a rap star unexpectedly passes away. Rest In Power.