Magic's Kingdom: Phoenix Rapper MC Magic's Lucrative Brand

Marco Cardenas looks and acts like a media mogul. He walks with the confidence of a man backed by a multimillion-dollar contract, and he dresses the part, too:

Usually all white, from head to toe. "Cocaine white," he likes to call it. As head of local label Nastyboy Records, MC Magic has built a music empire recognized all over the American Southwest. Just don't call him a brown Diddy, or a West Coast Jay-Z.

He knows he's not there.

Valley of the Sun artists such as fun.'s Nate Ruess and bands like Jimmy Eat World and the Meat Puppets have made good on their potential by earning national acclaim, but few acts have managed to stay as relevant for as long as the Mexican-American rapper from Nogales, Sonora. He makes his mark in the rap game today with a carefully crafted brand bolstered by massive Internet presence and his radio show, Magic City, on Valley hip-hop station Power 98.3.

"It's an empire, but it is an empire that requires maintenance," Magic says in the same melodic lilt he uses in his songs. "This means continuing to be passionate and inspiring, continuing to put out great music so that the empire will grow. The fact that anyone else would see it the same way really is a compliment to me, because I'm not the braggadocious type."

Braggadocio and hip-hop are synonymous in the music world, but Magic is neither brash nor boastful. Contrary to the "fuck it all" image sometimes perpetuated in hip-hop culture, he's measured and thoughtful when he talks, his answers tailored as neatly as the day's outfit.

Instead of talking about money and power, he repeats words like love, passion, and inspiration as his primary motivators. He insists it is part of the image he's built that's more a reflection of his character than an online persona.

His brand of hip-hop always has been more Latin-lover-balladry than molly-popping club-banging, but after more than 20 years, it's still effective. Magic first flexed his suave musical dexterity with a sultry beat and a seductive hook in 1992's "Lost in Love." His target audience since has been hormone-raging 14-year-old girls.

Before Magic adopted the "MC" moniker, he was DJing in local circuits as Mr. Magic. During that era, a cat by the name of MC Hammer happened to be doing big things in music. Being a mic controller was the thing to be. It just so happened that the letters were also Magic's initials. So he ran with it.

"There was one point when I was releasing an album that a friend of mine told me, 'You got to drop the MC because it sounds too old school.' I thought to myself, if I drop it, the brand recognition will be like starting over. So it's okay that it dates me, because that's also the heritage that I've built."

Though hip-hop transcended color lines years ago, Magic's major achievement has been connecting with the coveted Hispanic market through his silky R&B stylings and Spanish-tinged verses. It was long before social-media sites were around, but even then he knew the importance of establishing a brand.

Another facet of his brand is his heritage: He champions all things AZ.

For example, Magic elects to conduct his primary New Times photo shoot on the steps of the Arizona State Capitol.

"I just thought, 'Let's go to Jan Brewer's house. Let's report live from the heat.' I think it goes without saying that I've always tried to shine positive light on Arizona.

"I go to other states and people say, 'Man, eff Arizona, dog! There are some racist people there.' That's because they see Brewer on CNN. They see Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They don't see the people who live in the 'hood. So I rep it because there are carnicerías, taquerías, and Ranch Markets, you know what I'm saying?"

His song "Lost in Love" went on to become a massive hit for Magic, garnering comparisons to LL Cool J's classic "I Need Love." The infamous lip-licker had dropped his own baby-making track five years earlier, but, surprisingly, it didn't play a big role in influencing Magic's song.

"I wanted to create my own lane, not only because my mind wanted to but because my heart wanted to," he says. "My inspiration for 'Lost in Love' was actually a song by Lighter Shade of Brown called 'Latin Active.' It had such an impact on me and my Latin community that I wanted to make a romantic version of it.

"That was one of my personal influences early on, but as far as my music, it's always been more R&B and love than, you know, the battle rap. Even though we do have some battle rap in our arsenal."

To drive home the point, he drops his voice an octave and growls out the hook to his 2006 hit "Ride It Out."

"But it was more the R&B and love songs that have always influenced me," he says. "Plus, I'm Latino, you know. You got to expect that."

About the same time he dropped the single, Magic laid the groundwork for his label, Nastyboy Records. He initially created the entity as a way to release his own music but eventually used it to propel his hip-hop group Nastyboy Klick, which later would become NB Ridaz.

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9 comments
Broski_Love
Broski_Love

"cocaine white" is also a term used by the rapper Brotha Lynch in a song titled "Did It And Did It" where he is describing a suped up Nova's color.  


"In my brothers Cocaine White nova, shift kit, high rise intake manifold 350 motor"

DeusMeumqueJus
DeusMeumqueJus

His fascination with "cocaine white" sounds super suspect, typical record label/ drug trafficker.....

Josh Skora
Josh Skora

He used to DJ at my middle school dances back in the early 90's lol

mjchavez72
mjchavez72

I love mc magic hes the bomb :) they say when u have haters your doing something right an u def are :) keep up the good work keep making music an doing concerts awesome job finding mobfam love them also keep uo the good work :)

booyakasha
booyakasha

I've never heard of this guy. please let us know when he gets killed in drive-by shooting.

ESPN
ESPN

@Broski_Love 1 reference in 1 song vs.  Everything you say about why you wear white is apples to oranges.  HSI better watch this guy

 
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