Biz Markie, Pioneering Beatboxer And 'Just A Friend' Rapper, Dies … Sat, 17 Jul 2021 07:00:00 +0100-Hip-hop star known for his personality, beatboxing and freestyle skills scored his biggest hit in 1989.
Biz Markie, the New York rapper, beatboxer and producer, has died at age 57.
Markie’s representative, Jenni Izumi, said the rapper and DJ died peacefully Friday evening with his wife by his side. The cause of death has not been released.
“We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time,” Izumi said in a statement. “Biz created a legacy of artistry that will forever be celebrated by his industry peers and his beloved fans whose lives he was able to touch through music, spanning over 35 years. He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter.”
A highly endearing figure who emerged in the nascent hip-hop scene of the mid-1980s, he scored his biggest hit in 1989 with Just a Friend, which reached No 9 in the US charts.
He was diagnosed with diabetes in 2014, and was hospitalised for weeks with the illness during 2020.
Tributes for the rapper poured in on Friday evening.
“The one hurts baad”, tweeted Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip. “RIP to my Aries bro … I’m gonna miss u”.
“We lost another Rap legend”, tweeted musician Bootsy Collins, while Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea wrote: “All of my love to the one of a kind bringer of love and joy, the great Biz Markie. I will bang his records til the day I die”.
Born Marcel Hall in 1964, Biz Markie cut his teeth on New York’s hip-hop club circuit, and became noted for his freestyling and beatboxing talent. DJ-producer Marley Marl hired him to beatbox on tracks he was making for artists including Roxanne Shanté, and that skill was blended with lyricism on his breakthrough solo track, Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz.
It was included on 1988 debut album Goin’ Off alongside tracks such as Pickin’ Boogers – an ode to nasal mucus that showcased his goofy humour – and Vapors, which was later covered by Snoop Dogg.
The following year he released second album The Biz Never Sleeps. Buoyed by the single Just a Friend and its glorious, occasionally-in-tune chorus sung to a hesitant would-be lover, the album became his biggest success and was certified gold in 1990.
Follow-up I Need a Haircut was less successful and didn’t reach the US Top 100. Markie was sued by Gilbert O’Sullivan following its release over the track Alone Again, which sampled the chorus and piano backing of O’Sullivan’s song Alone Again (Naturally). A court ruled against Markie, who wryly titled his next album All Samples Cleared!; the decision changed the way samples were used in hip-hop, requiring them to be cleared prior to release.
Markie released only one further album, 2003’s Weekend Warriors, but continued touring (including as a DJ), made appearances in film and television, and performed guest raps with other artists.
He appeared on the Beastie Boys tracks Do It, The Biz vs The Nuge and Intergalactic, and sang on Benny and the Jets, their cover version of Elton John’s song. He guested alongside Slick Rick on the Will Smith track So Fresh, later acting opposite Smith in a cameo in Men in Black II. He was sampled by the Rolling Stones for their 1997 song Anybody Seen My Baby?, and guested on the Avalanches’ 2016 album Wildflower. In 2020, he became a host on US radio station Sirius XM.
“When I was a teenager we used to sneak out on Monday night to hit the hottest party in NYC. Soul Kitchen taught how let music live in my body,” wrote Washington on Twitter. “Whenever we saw Biz on the 1s & 2s we were in awe. He was a genius. Rest In Peace and Soul.”
Even New York major Bill de Blasio weighed in, saying: “Biz Markie turned hip hop on its head and brought that New York sense of humor to audiences across the world. We’re mourning a true son of Harlem tonight.”
The Associated Press contributed reporting
Biz Markie, rapper known for Just a Friend, dies at age 57 Sat, 17 Jul 2021 07:00:00 +0100-Biz Markie, an American original born Marcel Theo Hall and a larger-than-life hip-hop figure, has died at the age of 57. Known widely for a career spanning back …
Biz Markie, in an undated photo from the early years.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
Biz Markie, an American original born Marcel Theo Hall and a larger-than-life hip-hop figure, has died at the age of 57. Known widely for a career spanning back to 1986, Hall went on to become a beloved cultural figure later in life, celebrated for his spirited personality as much as his massive 1989 hit, “Just A Friend.” His death was confirmed by his manager, Jenni D. Izumi.
“We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time,” Izumi told NPR via email. “Biz created a legacy of artistry that will forever be celebrated by his industry peers and his beloved fans whose lives he was able to touch through music, spanning over 35 years.”
Hall had reportedly been ill for months, but Izumi did not provide an official cause of death.
Biz came of age when rap was still young; a free-for-all in terms of approach and style, an era that seemed innocent yet was wildly progressive. He was born in Harlem before moving to Long Island in his early teens. An early introduction for those outside of New York, at least on film, was best captured in the 1986 Dutch hip-hop documentary, Big Fun in the Big Town. In it, we see a tall, lanky beatboxer in a hat emblazoned with big letters spelling out “Biz Markie.” He's effusive onstage with fellow crewmate, Roxanne Shanté. They're doing exuberant back-and-forth routines as the camera zooms in on Biz, showcasing the innate ease at which he can pack a party and move a crowd through his voice and natural presence.
He was an early standout in the Juice Crew, a dazzling collective led by producer Marley Marl, a visionary who assembled a team so adept and rich in character it would only be rivaled in the modern age by the otherworldliness of Wu-Tang Clan. The crew, whose affiliates were mostly out of Queensbridge, was founded by radio DJ Mr. Magic and subsequently placed on Tyrone Williams' record label, Cold Chillin' Records. Their first release, 1984's “Roxanne's Revenge,” was produced by Marley and featured a 15-year-old Roxanne Shante. The charismatic release became a hit and is largely responsible for Juice Crew's early strides.
The young proto-supergroup consisted of several eventual greats — Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, MC Shan and others. They were the vanguard of their day, a formidable team who emboldened the new school amid rap's explosive mid-'80s popularity. Each member possessed distinct traits. If Kane was the dancing playboy and G Rap the hustler, Biz was the jester, the comic relief in a crew of serious rhyme experts. His delivery was never as dexterous as the others, but he'd use props and costumes to exploit his size, pushed the mic into his neck while beatboxing and made himself the butt of jokes. In a world of braggadocio, his self-deprecation was a refreshing contrast, decidedly humble, a theme he never strayed too far from for the rest of his career. He's warmly dubbed by many as hip-hop's “clown prince.”
Biz's first official solo album was 1988's Goin' Off, a debut produced by Marley Marl, anchored by singles that remain among his best; “Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz,” “Nobody Beats the Biz,” as well as “Vapors,” a hilarious four-verse tale of success and envy that proved to be a hit. In the song's final stanza, he endearingly laments: “I say, 'Can I be down, champ?' They said 'No!' and treated me like a wet food stamp.”
Cold Chillin' Records YouTube
The Biz Never Sleeps, his sophomore effort, generated not only Markie's most-known song, but also one of rap's most enduring, “Just A Friend.” It brilliantly sampled Freddie Scott's “You Got What I Need” and became his biggest single, eventually charting at No. 9 on Billboard. In the music video, Biz dons a powdered wig, gloriously impersonating Mozart on the piano. It was a story-rap about constant rejection, bolstered by an earworm of a chorus. Biz is pictured weeping on the cover of the 12-inch single; big frown, handkerchief and all.
I Need A Haircut, the followup to Biz Never Sleeps, is largely remembered for a court decision on copyright law: Singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan sued Biz and his record label, Warner Bros., for unauthorized usage of his 1972 hit, “Alone Again (Naturally).” The result was a landmark decision that tightened sampling laws thereafter, making all future rap (and all music) releases adhere to stringent licensing rules. Copies of I Need A Haircut were pulled from store shelves, making it a disappointment, despite bright moments— chief among them “Alone Again,” the song that got them in trouble and left the entire industry shook. His next release was impishly titled, All Samples Cleared!
As the '90s came to an end, it was clear that Biz had been ingrained within hip-hop, but also beyond. He had admirers, including the Beastie Boys, who featured him on three of their projects; Check Your Head (1992), Ill Communication (1994) and Hello Nasty (1998). He was sampled by the Rolling Stones on “Anybody Seen My Baby,” where his vocals were added to the song's middle sequence. He also appeared on reality TV (Celebrity Fit Club) and on pop radio in songs like Len's “Beautiful Day” from 1999.
Biz's final studio album, Weekend Warrior, arrived in 2003 and saw him working with producers 45 King and J-Zone, but he made the lion's share of beats. A prominent appearance by P. Diddy affirmed his ennobled status. The album includes a charming late-era track (“Chinese Food”), in which he eulogizes Aaliyah and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez in the intro, before listing all his favorite Chinese dishes in the chorus.
He appeared in the movies too, playing an intercosmic version of himself in Men In Black II. On television, he had a recurring role on the music-centric kid's program, Yo Gabba Gabba! In a charming segment called “Biz's Beat of the Day” he does short instructionals on how to beatbox, often in costume. He also opened for Chris Rock on his No Apologies tour. There were popular t-shirts that widely sold with his face and now famous reactionary quip, “Oh Snap!” When his fandom was at an all-time high, dolls with his likeness, cereal boxes and action figures all became collectable items.
Until word of his recent hospitalization in late July of 2020, you could find Biz on social media, posting toys from his collection or playing 45s while dressed in a onesie. He still toured and did legacy shows and guest appearances seemingly often. He'd post show flyers, vintage ones that felt historical or current ones from tech conventions. There's also pictures of him and fellow legends like Slick Rick and Rakim. His behemoth grin and comedic energy intact, vital as it was in that aforementioned 1986 Dutch documentary.
In 2005, an independent rapper named Edan predicted the coming of this awful day through a track called “Funky Voltron,” saying: “'Cause when the beats sound iffy and the kids bark live / It'll be a sad day like when the Bizmark dies.” For over 30 years Biz projected joie di vivre easily through humor that was always wholesome and good spirited. His artistry felt inclusive, he wanted us to laugh, to be entertained by his toys and record collection and beats and songs and jokes and the faces he'd make. And we were.
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– July 17, 2021
Biz Markie rapper known for Just a Friend dies at age 57