Editor’s note: This story is part of That’s My Word, KQED’s year-long exploration of Bay Area hip-hop history, with new content dropping all throughout 2023.
Magic Mike is a Bay Area legend. In the early 1980s, before record label contracts were feasible for rap artists, Magic Mike and his partner Calvin T made their own homemade tapes and sold them on the street. What Too Short and Freddy B were to Oakland, Magic Mike and Calvin T were to Richmond.
What follows is a frank, honest discussion about rapping, hustling, pimping, prison, and the sometimes violent world of the streets in the 1980s. Years before N.W.A. and the rise of "reality rap," Magic Mike and Calvin T put it all on tape, right here in the Bay Area.
As Magic Mike explains, he has regrets, especially around his treatment of women. While Too Short rapped about what he was seeing; Magic Mike rapped about what he was living. And, at a pivotal time when other rappers from the Bay Area were getting signed to major label deals, Magic Mike and Calvin T's chances were repeatedly derailed by incarceration.
Watch the interview above, and find select excerpts below, edited for length and clarity.—Gabe Meline
DREGS ONE: What made you run away from home when you were 14?
MAGIC MIKE: I ran away from my mother's house, two weeks before my 14th birthday, and started pimping. My mama came home one night and find a female in the house, and she said, “Get this tramp out my house.” I'm like, “Mama, she ain't a tramp, she a young lady.” And she was just, “Get this tramp about my house.” I was gonna walk her home. “She live across the tracks, it's dark, mama!” My mama said, “You leave out this house, boy, don't come back.”
I'm a Capricorn. I'm stubborn. I never came back, bro. And before she died, she told me I broke her heart because I never came back.
So you left home that night with your female friend.
And never came back. I started stayin' with her and her mama until that played out, and then I told her, like, “We need some money.”
I was the youngest pimp from Richmond ever. Let's put it like that. We ain't talking about hanging around pimps — we're talking about a 14-year old child sending out grown whores. That's how I got turned out.
And you became a little heartless after that.
Completely. Completely heartless. Like, completely heartless. I'm not gonna sugar-coat it.
And then older dudes took a liking to me. They like, “You raw, we like you, Magic! And you's rappin' this shit too? Come on an' ride with us, boy — get you somethin' else to rap about!” 'Cause me and Calvin T, all we're doin' is rapping what we livin' and what we seein' — we're around pimps and hustlers and dope boys. So that's all we rappin' about, from 1982 on up, when we were in Juvenile Hall together. And by 1983, Calvin T and Magic Mike tapes was circulating.
When you and Calvin T were in Juvenile Hall together, did you make a plan for when you got out?
Calvin T went home before me. We had all this planned. “I'm going to continue to write in here, I'm going to mail it to you, spit this shit and get 'em used to it.” That lasted for like two months. And when I came home, Calvin had it crackin'. He had a little equipment with the little Casio keyboard, the beat machine, and the cassette tape for dubbing. He was ready! In Juvenile Hall, we was just spittin' acapella. But when I came home, he already had the old-school Casio beats.
So y'all figure, "Alright, we're gonna record tapes and start slangin' 'em." How does that idea come?
At first we dubbed just four or five tapes. Calvin's house was on the hill, and we walked down the hill, three or four blocks to the little gas station in South Richmond — we didn't even get past the gas station. The tapes was gone. So we had to bust a U and walk right back up the hill and dub some more tapes. So now we're like, “We'll do 10-15 tapes.”
So those tapes was movin' from Richmond to Vallejo, to Oakland...
To everywhere! Pimp C, Rest in Peace — Bun B once said Magic Mike and Calvin T was one of UGK's first influences [in Texas]. Cats was going to the military, to Germany, takin' tapes with 'em. Or one dope boy would go to Vallejo to serve another dope boy, like “What you listenin' to?” “That's that Magic Mike and Calvin T!” They stealin' that, and they gonna dub it. So young Mac Malls, and young Mac Dres, and young E-40s and B-Legits is hearin' it. Those tapes went everywhere, man.
So in 1989, on your first official tape, you have the tracks “Nine Hoes Deep,” “Pimp Pimp,” and “Get With My Pimpin', Bitch.”
If you listen to that shit, bro, that's how I was livin'. Man, I go back and listen to that, I'm like, “I don't want my son to hear this shit.”
It was the devil. Don't get it twisted. We proclaimed it to be game, but that ain't game, man. Any time you gotta abuse anything, that ain't game. I was wildin' out, I was rebelling. Anything a grown man was doin' in the '80s, my young ass was doin'. Fifths of Hennessy, motel rooms, hot tubs, cocaine, weed, everything... at 14-15 years old. I'm like, “the fuck?”
But that's what makes it raw. Even though you can make it sound fun and entertaining on a record, it's still comin' from a real place.
But see, now, fast-forward 40 years later, I'm in a dilemma. Because part of my fanbase wants me to be OG Magic Mike and spit that pimp shit. But this Magic Mike in 2023 been married for 19 years, and got daughters and granddaughters. You feel me? I'm not livin' that. It wouldn't be authentic.
What do you think the most important lesson you learned from the pimp game would be?
If I knew then what I know now, I would have never been in that phase. I would have never abused a woman, put my hands on a woman, manipulated a woman — never. Because I realize that a woman, that's our bone, that's my life, that's my breath... I wish I never would have abused a woman, 'cause now I look back and a woman is all I got.
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