Hip-hop classic Biz Markie succumbs at 57

Free Press wire reports | 7/22/2021, 6 p.m.
Biz Markie, a hip-hop staple known for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic “Just a Friend,” died ...

LOS ANGELES - Biz Markie, a hip-hop staple known for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic “Just a Friend,” died Friday, July 16, 2021, with his wife by his side.

The cause of death has not been released. He was 57.

“We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time,” Jenni Izumi, Biz Markie’s representative, 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.” Biz Markie, whose birth name was Marcel Theo Hall, be- came known within the rap genre realm as the self-proclaimed “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” for his lighthearted lyrics and humorous nature. He made music with the Beastie Boys, opened for Chris Rock’s comedy tour and was a sought-after DJ for countless star-studded events.

The New York-native’s music career began in 1985 as a beat boxer of the Juice Crew, a rap collective he helped Big Daddy Kane join. Three years later, he released his debut album “Goin’ Off,” which featured underground hits “Vapors” and “Pickin’ Boogers.”

Biz Markie broke into mainstream music with his platinum-selling song “Just a Friend,” the lead single on his sophomore album “The Biz Never Sleeps.” The friend-zone anthem cracked Rolling Stone’s top 100 pop songs and made VH1’s list of 100 greatest hip-hop songs of all time.

“This one hurts baad ... RIP to my Aries bro, Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest said on Twitter, where an outpouring of mourning for Biz Markie was growing. “Ahhh man @Biz- Markie damn im gonna miss u so so many memories.”

Questlove said he learned from Biz Markie early in his career.

“Biz built me man,” Questlove posted on Instagram along with a picture of him and Markie. “In my early early stages it was Biz who taught me the REAL places to cop records....Biz taught me what cities had good digging..... Biz taught me where to collect 45s......Biz taught me where to collect 8TRACK TAPES!!”

After two successful albums, Biz Markie was served with a copyright infringement lawsuit for a song on his third studio album, “I Need a Haircut,” in 1991. He and his label, Warner Bros Records, were sued by Irish singer Gilbert O’Sullivan who claimed that elements from his 1972 hit “AloneAgain (Naturally)” were illegally sampled in Biz Markie’s “Alone Again”

The judge ruled to halt further distribution of the album, which was reissued without the illegal track. The judgment also changed the landscape of music sampling by dictating they were pre-approved by the original owner.

Despite the setback, Biz Markie released his fourth album “All Samples Cleared!” in 1993 that was an apparent reference to the court battle. He released his final album, “Weekend Warrior,” a decade later.

Biz Markie kept his name relevant as he consistently booked more than 175 shows a year, according to the rapper’s website. He has appeared on television shows, including “In Living Color,” “Empire” and “black-ish” along with the 2002 movie “Men in Black II,” in which he played an alien parody of himself in the film starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Biz Markie also taught the method of beatboxing in an episode of the children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba!”

“We lost another Rap legend Mr. Biz Markie,” Parliament- Funkadelic bassist Bootsy Collins tweeted. “To a lot of us he was more than Just a Friend.”