Biz Markie, the ‘Clown Prince of Hip-Hop,’ Dead at 57

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Rolling Stone 16 July, 2021 - 07:12pm 41 views

“Just a Friend” rapper struggled with health issues related to decade-long battle with Type 2 diabetes

Biz Markie, the pioneering rapper, producer, and beatboxer whose jovial goofiness and innovative samples made him a singular presence in hip-hop, died Friday at the age of 57.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, hip hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away,” his rep Jenni Izumi said in a statement. “We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time.

“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,” Izumi added. “He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one.”

While a cause of death was not revealed, the rapper had struggled in recent years with health issues related to his decade-long battle with Type 2 diabetes. In April 2020, he was hospitalized due to complications related to the disease, and later that year suffered a stroke after going into a diabetic coma. Although the rapper was rehabilitating, his condition continued to decline, leading to premature reports of Markie’s death in late June.

“Biz is still under medical care, surrounded by professionals who are working hard to provide the best health care possible,” Izumi wrote in a statement to Rolling Stone at the time.”

Over the course of five albums — most notably 1988’s Goin’ Off and 1989’s The Biz Never Sleeps — the producer-MC, whose real name was Marcel Hall, developed his own style unlike any other rapper at the time: a mix of half-sung choruses, riveting beatboxing, and silly humor that would earn him the nickname the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” and pave the way for off-kilter rappers like Ol’ Dirty Bastard. Although deemed one of hip-hop’s biggest one-hit wonders — VH1 placed his 1989 classic “Just a Friend” at Number 81 on its 2000 list of the greatest one-hit wonders of all time — the rapper’s impact extended far beyond hip-hop’s greatest friend-zone lament.

The Harlem-born, Long Island–raised MC was a member of the legendary Juice Crew, the Queensbridge collective assembled by DJ Magic Mike and Marley Marl, and featuring fellow rappers like Big Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, Roxanne Shante, and Kool G Rap.

Markie’s debut single, the Marl-produced “Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz” in 1986, showcased the “human beatbox” skills that would become a trademark throughout Markie’s career; his beatboxing skills were so otherworldly, he was cast in a cameo role as a beatboxing, mail-sorting alien in 2002’s Men in Black II.

With Marl as producer, Markie released his 1988 debut LP, Goin’ Off, on the Juice Crew’s Cold Chillin’ Records. While not a critical success, the album featured the enduring underground hits “Vapors,” “Nobody Beat the Biz” — a play on the jingle of a New York-based electronics store — and “Pickin’ Boogers,” the latter of which highlighted the Clown Prince’s unique blend of humor and hip-hop. Asked in 2018 if the stories Markie described in “Vapors” were real, he replied, “Dead real. Everything. I didn’t know how to write no other way.” The song would go on to be sampled by everyone from Notorious B.I.G. to Ice Cube, while the “Pickin’ Boogers” line “Now let me take a trip down memory lane” would later feature prominently on Nas’ Illmatic classic “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in da Park).”

In 1989, Markie released what would become his most successful album The Biz Never Sleeps, thanks to its breakout track “Just a Friend.” With a hook featuring Markie’s hound-dog croon on an interpolation of Freddie Scott’s 1968 song “(You) Got What I Need” — and aided by a similarly comedic music video that cast Markie as Mozart — the track reached Number Nine on the Billboard 100 in 1990, the only platinum-selling hit of Markie’s career.

“Usually when I make a record I know what the potential is going to be, but I didn’t know that ‘Just a Friend’ was going to be that big,” Markie said in 2013. “‘Just a Friend’ opened a world up where I never knew the difference between being a pop star and a regular rap star. It was crazy.”

Markie subsequently released I Need a Haircut in 1991, though his career hit a litigious stalling point due to his unauthorized use of a Gilbert O’Sullivan sample on the track “Alone Again.” While the ensuing Grand Upright Music Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. wasn’t the first sampling lawsuit, its judgment had a landmark impact on hip-hop: Following the judge’s ruling — which, according to NPR, included a $250,000 fine, a halt on sales of I Need a Haircut, and, most bewildering, the recommendation that Markie face criminal charges for theft — record labels were forced to get clearance on all samples by the original copyright holders.

The Clown Prince of Hip-Hop took the ruling in stride and channeled the incident into his 1993 album, All Samples Cleared, which lampooned the court case by using a sample of five different renditions of the same song, Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life Woman.”

While Markie would release only one more album during his lifetime — 2003’s Weekend Warrior — he remained a mainstay in the entertainment industry thanks to his appearances on comedy series (In Living Color, Crank Yankers, Wild’n Out); children’s shows (SpongeBob SquarePants and Yo Gabba Gabba, where Markie was also a member of the touring unit); “as himself” cameos (Black-ish, Empire, Hip-Hop Squares); and countless VH1 “I Love the …” specials. Markie also featured on the Beastie Boys’ “Benny and the Jets,” the Avalanches’ “The Noisy Eater,” Flaming Lips and Kesha’s “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded),” De La Soul’s “Stone Age,” and Freddie Gibbs and the Alchemist’s “God Is Perfect.”

Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2018 on “Vapors,” Markie said, “I always look at records like, if it has a good feeling, it’s gonna have a good feeling for a long time.”

In This Article: Biz Markie, Hip-Hop, obit, Obituary

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Biz Markie Has Died at 57

Pitchfork 16 July, 2021 - 07:33pm

“It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, Hip Hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away,” Biz Markie’s representative Jenni D. Izumi issued a statement. “We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time. 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. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one.”

Born Marcel Theo Hall, Biz Markie was best known for his inimitable skills as a beatboxer and his 1989 hit “Just a Friend.” The single from his second album The Biz Never Sleeps reached No. 9 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and its humor gave the song an enduring popularity that stretched across the ensuing decades.

Markie rose in his native New York as a beatboxer for MC Shan, Roxane Shante, and others. He appeared in the 1986 Dutch documentary Big Fun in the Big Town alongside MC Shan, as well as Run-D.M.C., Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J, Grandmaster Flash, and other early pillars of the New York hip-hop community. He released his debut album Goin’ Off in 1988, which featured “Nobody Beats the Biz.”

In 1991, a track from Markie’s third album I Need a Haircut prompted a legal case that formally established the practice of sample clearance in hip-hop. Markie sampled Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” on his own song “Alone Again.” As a result, O’Sullivan sued Markie and Warner Bros., and a federal judge in New York ruled that Markie’s usage violated O’Sullivan’s copyright. Markie released his fourth album in 1993 and titled it All Samples Cleared!

“Just a Friend” remained Markie’s biggest hit, and, in the 1990s, he focused on working with the Beastie Boys over releasing more albums of his own. He appeared on their 1992 album Check Your Head, 1994’s Ill Communication, and 1998’s Hello Nasty. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Markie made frequent appearances on TV, often parodying himself and “Just a Friend.” In 2002’s Men in Black II, he appeared as an alien working in a post office. His final studio album was 2003’s Weekend Warrior, but he continued to tour as a DJ.

Farewell, Biz Markie: Remembering the Wild-Style Chaos and Diabolical Genius of Hip-Hop's Old-School Joker King

Rolling Stone 16 July, 2021 - 07:22pm

Whether freestyling, beatboxing, rocking the party, or making booger jokes, the late New York MC brought wit and wisdom to rap and beyond for 30-plus years

"Me and rap is like peanut butter and jelly," Biz Markie boasted on 1993's "I'm Singin'."

In This Article: Biz Markie, Hip-Hop

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© 2021 Penske Media Corporation

Biz Markie, Rapper Known for ‘Just a Friend,’ Dies at 57

Variety 16 July, 2021 - 07:14pm

Biz Markie, the rapper, singer and actor behind the 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” died Friday in Baltimore. He was 57.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, hip hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away,” his rep Jenni Izumi said in a statement.

“We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time. 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. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one.”

He had been suffering from complications due to diabetes, according to TMZ

Markie made a splash in hip-hop with the single “Just a Friend” in 1989, off of his second album, “The Biz Never Sleeps.” The song’s signature piano melody (interpolated from Freddie Scott’s “You Got What I Need”) matched with Markie’s narrative-driven rapping and raspy, off-kilter singing voice, made it a success — reaching No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart — and an eventual oldies favorite. Its music video, too, was a hit, detailing Markie’s romantic problems in a humorous way, including a scene of Markie at the piano dressed as Mozart.

Born Marcel Theo Hall on April 8, 1964 in Harlem, N.Y., Markie was raised on Long Island and began his music career performing in night clubs and colleges, eventually finding himself a member of Marley Marl’s famed Juice Crew, where he performed as a beatboxer alongside the likes of Roxanne Shanté and MC Shan. (Though he didn’t pioneer the technique, Markie was one of beatboxing’s most visible early practitioners.) He released his debut album, “Goin’ Off,” on the Cold Chillin’ imprint in 1988, with singles “Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz,” “Vapors” and “Nobody Beats the Biz” helping him break into the top 100 of the Billboard album chart. His sophomore record, “The Biz Never Sleeps,” followed in 1989, quickly going Gold on the success of “Just a Friend.”

With his third album, 1991’s “I Need a Haircut,” Markie found himself at the center of one of the most consequential battles over copyright law and sampling in hip-hop, when ‘70s singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan sued the rapper for sampling his song “Alone Again (Naturally)” without permission. The case went to trial, with the judge ruling against Markie, and even referring him to criminal court on possible charges of “theft.” A criminal case was never brought, but the matter wrought huge changes to the way hip-hop producers approached sampling going forward, as well as substantial setbacks for Markie’s career. (Markie made cheeky reference to the case with the title of his next album, 1993’s “All Samples Cleared!”)

His recording output dropped off after that, although he frequently collaborated with longtime fans the Beastie Boys, who featured him on several albums and often brought him out during concerts. (His deliriously off-key rendition of Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” was much beloved.) It wasn’t until 2003 that he finally released another album, “Weekend Warrior.”

In addition to his music career, Markie made numerous appearances in television and film, most notably as a rapping alien in “Men in Black II” in 2002, and on the children’s television show “Yo Gabba Gabba.” Markie also appeared on “In Living Color” in 1994, was an announcer on the animated series “Crank Yankers” and voiced roles on “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Adventure Time.” More recently, he appeared in the popular TV series “Empire” and “Black-ish” as himself. He was currently in production on the film “Chaaw,” which is set for release in May 2022.

Report: Biz Markie, Pioneering Rapper Known For Hit 'Just A Friend,' Dies At 57

CBS Los Angeles 16 July, 2021 - 12:35pm

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Biz Markie, the pioneering New York hip-hop rapper best known for the hit song, “Just A Friend,” died Friday at the age of 57.

According to a report from The Hollywood Reporter, a representative confirmed the death with a statement to the outlet that said, in part:

Markie, born Marcel Theo Hall in April 8, 1964, in New York reportedly suffered from ill health for some time and was hospitalized last year for complications of Type 2 Diabetes, THR reported. Earlier this year, THR said Markie suffered from a stroke.

Markie released his first album, “Goin’ Off,” in 1988. The following year, he released, “The Biz Never Sleeps,” with the single “Just A Friend.” That single became his most successful single, making the Top 10 in the Billboard charts and being named one of VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs Of Hip Hop in 2008.

On July 1, rumors of Markie’s death circulated on Twitter, though his representative told Rolling Stone in a statement at the time that the rumors were unfounded.

“Biz is still under medical care, surrounded by professionals who are working hard to provide the best healthcare possible,” the statement said.

He is survived by his wife, family members and close friends.

Biz Markie

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