Biz Markie, hip-hop’s ‘Just a Friend’ Clown Prince, dies at 57


Written by Joe (*57*)

Biz Markie, the progressive but proudly goofy rapper, DJ and producer whose self-deprecating lyrics and off-key wail on songs like “Just a Friend” earned him the nickname Clown Prince of Hip-Hop, died Friday. He was 57.

His dying was confirmed by his supervisor, Jenni Izumi, who didn’t present a trigger.

He had been identified with Type 2 diabetes in his late 40s and mentioned that he misplaced 140 kilos within the years that adopted. “I wanted to live,” he advised ABC News in 2014.

A local New Yorker and an early collaborator with hip-hop trailblazers like Marley Marl, Roxanne Shanté and Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie started as a teenage beatboxer and freestyle rapper. He finally made a title for himself because the resident courtroom jester of the Queensbridge-based collective the Juice Crew and its Cold Chillin’ label, underneath the tutelage of influential radio DJ Mr. Magic.

On “Goin’ Off” (1988), his debut album, Biz Markie launched himself as a bumbling upstart with a juvenile humorousness — the opening monitor, “Pickin’ Boogers,” was about precisely that — however his attraction and his abilities had been plain, making him a believable promote to an more and more rap-curious crossover viewers.

With direct, usually mundane lyrics written partly by his childhood good friend Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie was a hip-hop Everyman whose chief love was music, a journey he broke down over a James Brown pattern on his first hip-hop hit, the biographical “Vapors”; Snoop Doggy Dogg later tailored the tune for his personal 1997 model.

“When I was a teenager, I wanted to be down/With a lot of MC-DJ-ing crews in town,” Biz Markie rapped. “So in school on Noble Street, I say, ‘Can I be down, champ’/They said no, and treated me like a wet food stamp.”

But Biz Markie quickly outpaced his friends commercially, turning into a pop sensation with the unlikely 1989 smash “Just a Friend,” from “The Biz Never Sleeps,” which was launched by Cold Chillin’ and Warner Bros. Over a plunked piano beat, borrowing its melody from the 1968 tune “(You) Got What I Need,” recorded by Freddie Scott and written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Biz Markie raps an prolonged story about being unfortunate in love.

But it was his pained, rough-edged singing on the tune’s refrain — together with the “yo’ mama” jokes and the Mozart costume he wore within the music video — that made the tune indelible: “Oh, baaaaby, you / You got what I neeeeeed / But you say he’s just a friend / But you say he’s just a friend.”

Writing in The New York Times, critic Kelefa Sanneh referred to as Biz Markie “the father of modern bad singing” and wrote, “His bellowed plea — wildly out of tune, and totally unforgettable — sounded like something concocted after a day of romantic disappointments and a night of heavy drinking.”

Biz Markie has mentioned he was by no means presupposed to be the vocalist dealing with these notes. “I asked people to sing the part, and nobody showed up at the studio,” he defined later, “so I did it myself.”

“Just a Friend” would go platinum, reaching No. 5 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart and No. 9 on the all-genre Hot 100. He mentioned he realized how huge it had gotten “when Howard Stern and Frankie Crocker and all the white stations around the country started playing it.” And though Biz Markie would by no means once more attain the heights of “Just a Friend” — he did not land one other single on the Hot 100 — he dismissed those that referred to him dismissively as a one-hit marvel.

“I don’t feel bad,” he mentioned. “I know what I did in hip-hop.”

Marcel Theo Hall was born April 8, 1964, in Harlem. He was raised on Long Island, the place he was recognized across the neighborhood as Markie, and he took his unique stage title, Bizzy B Markie, from the primary hip-hop tape he ever heard within the late Seventies, by the L Brothers, that includes Busy Bee Starski. Always often called a prankster, he was mentioned to have as soon as given his highschool vice principal a cake laced with laxatives.

He honed his act as a DJ and beatboxer at Manhattan nightclubs just like the Roxy, though his rhyming remained a supply of insecurity. By the mid-Eighties, he had fallen in with the Juice Crew, whose members started that includes him on data and finally working with him on his lyrics and supply.

“When I felt that I was good enough, I went to Marley Marl’s house and sat on his stoop every day until he noticed me, and that’s how I got my start,” he mentioned.

In 1986, Biz Markie appeared on one among his earliest data, “The Def Fresh Crew” by Roxanne Shanté, offering exaggerated mouth-based percussion. That similar yr, he launched an EP produced by Marley Marl, “Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz,” calling himself the Inhuman Orchestra.

“When you hear me do it, you will be shocked and amazed,” he rapped on the title monitor, which might additionally function a single from “Goin’ Off,” his official debut. “It’s the brand-new thing they call the human beatbox craze.”

But after the success of his first two albums, Biz Markie’s third would develop into a a part of hip-hop historical past for nonmusical causes, which might nonetheless reverberate by way of the style: a copyright lawsuit.

After the discharge of that album, “I Need a Haircut,” in 1991, Biz Markie and his label had been sued by representatives for Irish singer-songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan, who mentioned eight bars of his 1972 hit “Alone Again (Naturally)” had been sampled with out permission on Biz Markie’s “Alone Again.” A lawyer for O’Sullivan referred to as sampling “a euphemism in the music industry for what anyone else would call pickpocketing”; a choose agreed, calling for $250,000 in damages and barring additional distribution of the album.

That ruling would assist set a precedent within the music trade by requiring that even small chunks of sampled music — a cornerstone of hip-hop aesthetics and studio manufacturing — should be permitted prematurely. A marketplace for sampling clearance took maintain, which stays a key a part of the economics behind hip-hop.

“Because of the Biz Markie ruling,” one file govt mentioned at the time, “we had to make sure we had written clearance on everything beforehand.”

In 1993, Biz Markie responded with a pointed new album, “All Samples Cleared!” But his recognition had waned, and it will be his final launch for a main label. A decade later, he returned with “Weekend Warrior” (2003), his fifth and remaining album, although he maintained cultural relevance as a huge persona with an everlasting smash in “Just a Friend.”

Complete info on survivors was not instantly out there.

Biz Markie made appearances on the massive and small screens, often as a model of himself. He was seen within the film “Men in Black II,” heard as a voice on “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and appeared on “Black-ish” and because the beatboxing professional behind “Biz’s Beat of the Day” on the youngsters’s present “Yo Gabba Gabba!” He additionally grew to become a devoted collector of uncommon data and toys, together with Beanie Babies, Barbies and tv motion figures.

But whilst a novelty throwback presence, he remained jovial, calling himself “one of them unsung heroes” and evaluating himself to a McRib sandwich (“when I do pop up they appreciate everything they see”) in a 2019 Washington Post interview.

“I’m going to be Biz Markie until I die,” he mentioned. “Even after I die I’m going to be Biz Markie.”


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