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

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"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.

"I was just like most frustrated artists," he says. "I went to record conventions and gave out packets to people, and they would look at me and say, 'Thanks, we'll listen to it, don't call us, we'll call you.' So I decided, forget it, I'll start my own label. I did some research on how to start a record company and I did."

His solo album, Don't Worry, debuted in 1995, and he released Tha Second Coming and NBRidaz.com with his hip-hop group before returning to his solo roots with 2006's Magic City. Although he's happy to work on his own again, Magic's always on the lookout for new talent. He regularly petitions for demo tapes and encourages submissions on his website and social media pages.

"I think the main ingredient I look for in a band is the same thing that I look for when I'm being entertained or listening to a new record or at the movies," he says. "I'm looking for someone that's so into their craft and art that it's inspiring to me. That is what makes people go crazy over a record. It's kind of like the 'Harlem Shake.' It's a novelty thing, but when you watch what somebody else did with their 'Harlem Shake' video, you're like, 'Okay, I want to do that, too.' That's the most important element an artist can have for me.

"That's how Mobfam came into the picture," he says. "Those three guys were inspirational to me because of how hard they wanted it — how much passion they were putting into their music."

Magic signed the South Phoenix brothers to a deal in late 2011 after some serious coercing from Mobfam's eldest member, T.S. He reached out to Magic over Twitter, bombarding him with track after track until he finally caught Magic's attention with the Valley anthem, "Rep Yo Flag." The track not only struck a chord with Magic's sense of Arizona pride but presented him with an opportunity to reach a different spectrum of the Latino demographic.

"Their growing up was not like my growing up," Magic says. "They talk about partying and smoking and doing all of that. That's where we're different, but at the same time, that's also a key element of our people."

Magic was born in the border town of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, and illegally immigrated to the United States at 5 years old. The arduous journey is a distant memory that's taken on mythical proportions.

Now 46, he says, "I'm not sure if it's a memory or if it was a story that they kept telling me over and over about the way that my father crossed us over. I think I remember him carrying me in his arms and running across the border; sort of dodging immigration."

His father, Claudio, came from a family of panaderos (bakers), but as Magic's family settled into American life, his father found work first as a shoeshine man and then as a fence-builder. His mother stayed home with Magic and his six sisters. When he was 8, his parents separated and Magic found himself once again in his homeland.

"Initially, when they broke up, I went with my dad," Magic says. "I remember crossing the border and jumping on a train to a city called Nacozari. We went on a passenger train, inside a proper caboose, on the way there. But on the way back, my dad ran out of money. So he and I had to ride in [a train's] coal buggy. I remember getting off of that train and it being loud, cold, and windy, and we were covered in ash.

"When we got to Nogales, he dropped me off at his brother's house, and I stayed with my aunt Elvira for something like two months," he says. "My mom [says] my dad returned to Phoenix and left me in Nogales. She [eventually] picked me up from my aunts. That was the last time I hung out with my dad for a long time."

After that, his mom, Lucia, became sole provider for the family, and he spent the remainder of his adolescence living in government housing projects across the Valley. She found work as a cook in Mexican restaurants.

"When I was in third grade, we moved into our first Section 8 home, over on 43rd Avenue and Southern," he says. "We lived in what was called Southern Meadows until I graduated from middle school. Our next public-housing move was to a double-story house with four bedrooms in Avondale. Officially, we [lived in what] were called the Garden Homes, but in the 'hood, they were known as the Dog Patch Projects. That's where I really started flourishing in music."

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Anthony Sandoval
Contact: Anthony Sandoval