Magoo, Virginia hip-hop star who was half of duo Timbaland & Magoo, reportedly dies at 50

Two men make hand gestures while posing in casual black, white and red outfits
Timbaland, left, and Magoo at Timbaland’s birthday party in 2011 in Miami.
(Johnny Nunez / WireImage)
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Virginia hip-hop icon Magoo, a rapper best known for his duo act with Timbaland and collaboration with Missy Elliott and Aaliyah, has reportedly died.

Fellow rapper Digital Black was first to announce Magoo’s reported death late Sunday with other artists chiming in on his passing soon after. The location and cause of his death have not been announced. He was 50.

Representatives for Timbaland and Elliott did not immediately respond to The Times’ requests for comment or confirmation, and The Times could not confirm Magoo’s death independently.


Born Melvin Barcliff, the Norfolk, Va., artist rose to prominence in the 1990s as a part of Swing Mob, also known as Da Bassment Cru, a music collective formed by Jodeci member DeVante Swing. Timbaland & Magoo headlined the group, along with fellow Virginia native Elliott and her group Sista, as well as R&B singer Ginuwine.

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With success as Timbaland & Magoo, the childhood friends brought attention in the 1990s and early 2000s to the burgeoning hip-hop scene in Virginia, which also birthed acts such as Pharrell as a part of the Neptunes and Pusha T. Timbaland led the duo with his futuristic beats rooted in 1970s soul and funk, occasionally lending his gruff baritone vocals, while Magoo was the pure lyricist, effortlessly spitting over the forward-thinking beats, his voice recognizable by its high-pitched, nasal quality.

“This one hits different,” Timbaland wrote Monday on Instagram. “Long live Melvin aka magoo !!! Tim and Magoo forever, rest easy my king.”

The post included an old video of the pair dancing onstage, performing their 1997 hit “Up Jumps da Boogie” alongside Elliott. Minutes later, Timbaland shared another video of the two reuniting onstage to perform the single in 2012 at the Shaggfest music festival in Virginia Beach. “So many memories,” the music producer and rapper wrote.

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Underscoring the track’s progressive sound, music writer Jeff Weiss described the hit as “26 years ahead of sound 26 years later” in a tweet that was among the earliest tributes online to mourn Magoo’s death late Sunday.

“And look, Magoo doesn’t steal the show, but everyone on the team gets a championship ring,” Weiss continued, adding that Timbaland & Magoo were among the first Virginia artists to go platinum, with their 1997 debut album, “Welcome to Our World.” “You have have to salute the man. He made fun rap tunes & got out of the way to live his life when it was time.”


Elliott said she was shocked by Magoo’s death, writing Monday on Instagram that “the more I sit the reality kicks in so many emotions.” She recalled meeting Magoo for the first time when they were teens and poking fun at his voice. “I laughed so hard, and I said, ‘Wait you really talk like that?’ And you said, ‘Yuuuup,’ and I kept laughing.” After she found out he was a rapper, Magoo spit eight bars on the spot, reminding Elliott of Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest — “But your flow was VA (Virginia), I loved it!”

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“From that day we became so cool, you supported me from day 1,” the “Work It” artist wrote, crediting Magoo for coming up with her nickname, Misdemeanor, after telling her, “It’s a crime to have that many talents.”

“Posting this is just heartbreaking,” Elliott continued, sharing a clip from the music video for their 1998 song, “Beep Me 911.” “I am so lost for words.”

Fellow Bassment Cru member Ginuwine also penned his own tribute Sunday evening, writing: “I don’t even know how to say anything at this point” and adding that he was “truly efd up right now.”

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“This dude always pushed me — I will miss you [Magoo], that’s what we called him, totally one of the best ever in my eyes, always pressing forward,” the “Pony” singer continued. “I know we didn’t talk a lot but the love was and will be always there my brotha. I will see you soon bro, we all have our date and I’m expecting the bro hug when I get there.”

Richmond-based rapper Mad Skillz, who was featured on Timbaland & Magoo’s “Clock Strikes,” also mourned the rapper’s death by posting a photo of the three artists in the song’s music video with the caption, “Rest easy my brother. VA lost a Real One.”


While Timbaland would go on to produce hit tracks that would help define hip-hop and pop music in the 2000s, from Jay-Z to Nas, Ludacris, Rihanna, Justin Timberlake, Keri Hilson and Nelly Furtado, Magoo stepped away from music after the dissolution of the duo in 2004. When asked by Billboard during a 2001 interview whether he would ever consider a solo album apart from Timbaland, Magoo said it was hard for him to imagine making music without him, adding, “Tim and Magoo is more a friendship than it is a group.”

Magoo had a difficult time adjusting to his newfound fame on the heels of their platinum album and several tracks that cracked the Top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100, telling the publication, “When you get a little bit of success, it’s overwhelming in the beginning.”

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During a 2020 interview with hip-hop blog YouKnowIGotSoul in which he reflected on his career, Magoo recalled, “I never really got a chance to enjoy the success because it came at a cost,” describing the time in his life as “just a blur.”

“The video shoots and the flying, I never really got the chance to digest this success ... I’m going to keep it real, I didn’t enjoy any of that,” Magoo said. “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. Not just from a financial standpoint, but more so because you’re always working.

“You go from that album and then they want another one and then you have people trying to rip you apart. I didn’t get a chance to enjoy that. I enjoyed it more once it was over and I still didn’t enjoy it. That’s why I walked away from it.”

While Magoo remained private about his life after performing, he said he remained active in the music industry as the owner of a production company, working with Timbaland and, later, Madonna. But celebrity was something he continued to shun.


“The music business is a promise that can’t be kept and that’s fame,” he said. “When I had a number one song, I realized I may have been better with my 9-5 before I left Virginia. It’s hard to be happy because you’re fighting for everything you earned and you just don’t have time to enjoy it with your family. You aren’t as close with friends anymore and people are treating you different once you have that hit record.

“I lived two different lives and being a celebrity wasn’t fun.”