Biz Markie, who died of diabetes at the age of 57, earned the nickname “Clown Prince of Rap” for his favorite humor and melody to guns and gangs scattered around. lyrics from more menacing gangsta-style rappers. He was a fan of comedians Benny Hill and Richard Pryor, and admitted that “I’d rather smile than be serious. His biggest hit, Just a Friend (1989), was a sad story of his efforts to persuade a girl that “you have what I need!” Only to find her progress blocked by another guy she pretended to be “just a friend”.
On a rolling beat accompanied by piano clapping, the story was told with ironic histrionic by Markie, who hammered it energetically over the wailing chorus, and it reached No. 9 on the Billboard pop charts. “I knew if I mixed the drums from Lee Dorsey’s Get Out of My Life, Woman by Lee Dorsey with You Got What I Need by Freddie Scott, I would go platinum,” he said. The song was bolstered by a video featuring Markie’s slapstick Mozart impersonation, hitting a keyboard while he was dressed in a cape, ruffled shirt and wig. Markie insisted that “the song is true. A girl in California. She denigrated me, treated me like a dirty pair of drawers.
Another of Markie’s claims to fame was to have been at the center of an event that took a heavy toll on hip-hop. His third album, I Need a Haircut (1991), sold slowly upon release, but hit the pads catastrophically when Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Markie for using an unauthorized sample of 20 seconds of his 1972 hit Alone Again (Naturally) on the track Alone Again. O’Sullivan’s lawsuit was upheld in the landmark Grand Upright Music Ltd court ruling against Warner Bros Records Inc, and Markie was ordered to pay $ 250,000 in damages. The decision sent a seismic shock across the hip-hop world and beyond, as now all samples should be legally licensed with the original artists and duly paid. Warner Bros. has withdrawn I Need a Haircut from sale.
Markie’s fourth album was called All Samples Cleared! (1993), and the cover depicts a recreation of the courtroom scene, with Markie playing both judge and accused, but none of that was enough to make it a success.
One of six siblings, he was born Marcel Theo Hall in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey, and raised in Patchogue on Long Island. At Longwood High School in Suffolk County, he gained a reputation as a prankster. He adopted the Biz Markie pseudonym when he was 14 and described how it was derived from “the first hip-hop band I heard. It was in 77, 78, of the L Brothers. One of the rappers on the band was Busy Bee Starski, and he liked the name. “I used to be called Bizzy B Markie, and after a while I put the Biz with the Markie. My nickname in my neighborhood was Markie. He developed a knack for rhyme and beatboxing, his work displaying the spirit and playfulness that would become his trademark.
He broke into the music world doing beatboxing for Roxanne Shante of the Juice Crew collective and rose through the ranks playing house parties on Long Island and participating in rap battles, then working out. as a DJ in nightclubs in New York. As word of his skills spread, he found himself in demand at clubs in Washington, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
Markie approached producer Marly Marl (real name Marlon Williams), one of the founders of Juice Crew, to do some demos, and Marl conducted her 1985 single Def Fresh Crew, with Shante. He signed to Prism Records and released singles including Just Rhymin ‘with Biz, on which he performed as a duet with Big Daddy Kane.
In 1988, he recorded his first album, Goin ‘Off, for Cold Chillin’ Records (the new name of Prism, now distributed by Warner Bros). It was produced by Marl and featured lyrics by Kane on five tracks, including the single Pickin ‘Boogers. It started with a warning: “Now that can sound disgusting and very rude. A standout track was Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz, a showcase of his beatbox skills. Hip-hop guide Bring the Noise (1991) praised his ability to “hammer like a bass drum or chat like a hambone”.
His second album, The Biz Never Sleeps (1989, which featured Markie as “The Diabolical Biz Markie”), contained Just a Friend. However, following the copyright lawsuit, Markie’s career took a new direction, as he focused on DJing rather than recording. He starred in the movie Meteor Man (1993), appeared on the TV show In Living Color, and shot a freestyle rap commercial for MTV2. He has appeared as a guest artist on the Beastie Boys albums Check Your Head, Ill Communication and Hello Nasty.
In 1996, he appeared alongside Wu-Tang Clan, Coolio, and others on the America Is Dying Slowly album, which aimed to educate African American men about AIDS. In 1997, a sample from his track A One Two was used on the Rolling Stones song Anybody Seen My Baby? from their album Bridges to Babylon (making it the only Stones song to use sampling).
Markie has appeared in the films Men in Black II (2002, playing a beatboxing alien) and Sharknado II (2014), and in numerous TV shows. In 2005, he participated in VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club, a weight loss competition in which Markie lost more pounds than any other competitor. He has shot commercials for Radio Shack, Heineken, Budweiser and many more.
It wasn’t until 2003 that he released a new album, the ramshackle and intermittently adorable Weekend Warrior. “I don’t want to sound like a 50-year-old rapper who tries too hard,” he said. “If I have to make a record, I’ll do it because I want to make a record. “
Markie happily acknowledged his admiration for mainstream singers like Elton John or Barry Manilow – “I’m just here to entertain and make people happy,” he said – and looked fondly at the new underground scene. very united Yorker, the so-called “old school” from which he comes. He had appeared with many of his fellow New Yorkers including Shante, LL Cool J and Run-DMC in the documentary Big Fun in the Big Town (1986), made for Dutch television and now considered a cult classic. In 2016, he joined other veterans, including A Flock of Seagulls and Tiffany, on an ’80s Caribbean cruise.
Markie suffered from persistent weight issues, weighing in at 175 kg (27th 7 lbs). “I would eat, eat, eat, not exercise, fall asleep, eat and eat,” he said. In 2020, he was hospitalized after suffering complications from type 2 diabetes. By the end of the year, he was reportedly in a rehabilitation center, having suffered a stroke after going into a diabetic coma, and he died in hospital from complications.
He is survived by his wife, Tara (née Davis), whom he married in 2005.