| Name: Biz Markie
Birth Name: Marcel Theo Hall
Born: April 8, 1964 in Harlem, New York, United States
Died: July 16, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland at age 57
Cause of Death: Complications from Diabetes
Occupation: Rapper, Beatboxer, Singer, Comedian, Actor
Years Active: 1985–2021|
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With his silly rhymes, mad beatboxing skills, and colorful personality, Biz Markie brought pure joy and fun to hip hop music. Though best known for his smash hit "Just A Friend," Biz had a remarkably innovative career spanning four decades. Let‘s take a nostalgic trip in appreciation of this lovable rap legend.
Early Life and Career Beginnings in New York
Marcel Hall was born in Harlem in 1964, but spent his formative years on Long Island immersed in the burgeoning hip hop scene. As a teenager in the early 80s, he befriended iconic rappers like Roxanne Shanté who gave Biz his first break with a feature on her track “Def Fresh Crew.” His humorous rhyme style quickly turned heads, leading to a record deal with the legendary Cold Chillin‘ Records label.
Biz‘s debut album "Goin‘ Off" dropped in 1988, featuring hilarious tracks like "Pickin‘ Boogers." His innovative beatboxing skills were on full display, pioneering new techniques like the "Biz whimper." As Biz reminisced years later, "Back then, we was just doing music we liked, having fun. I didn‘t know my beatboxing was special, but people told me it was, so I kept having fun with it." The album was a hit, cementing Biz as a new school hip hop trailblazer.
"Just A Friend" – Biz‘s Magnum Opus
But it was Biz‘s 1989 single "Just A Friend" that became his pop culture magnus opus. The insanely catchy track, built around a playful piano riff, told the story of a friend-zoned Biz pleading with his crush. Back when I first heard it on Z100 as a kid, I instantly fell in love with the song. It ended up reaching #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Biz‘s biggest crossover hit. Even decades later, "Just A Friend" remains a timeless gem, proving Biz was a creative genius ahead of his time.
Collaborations with Hip Hop Legends
A natural team player, Biz frequently joined forces with icons across the hip hop world. In 1989, he was featured on the Beastie Boys classic "Hey Ladies," displaying effortless chemistry with the trio. Biz reminisced on recording with the Beasties, saying "We just had fun in the studio, not thinking about the business side. Just making each other laugh." His lighthearted energy meshed perfectly with their brash style.
Biz also collaborated with De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shanté, and others. On the LL Cool J ballad "This Is For The Love In You," Biz showed his sensitive side, crafting a beautiful beat and heartfelt guest verse. These collaborations with legends cemented Biz‘s reputation as one of the most respected, and respectable, rappers in the game.
Comedic Brilliance On Screen
Never taking himself too seriously, Biz embraced opportunities to showcase his comedic chops on television. He brought the laughs in cameos on shows like In Living Color, Hangin‘ with Mr. Cooper, and Fastlane. I‘ll never forget cracking up watching Biz play a rapping alien on Men In Black: The Series. His explicit songs like "Pickin‘ Boogers" could never fly on a kid‘s program today!
Biz was even willing to parody his own sampling lawsuit woes on the classic sitcom Living Single. While self-deprecation comes easily to a legend like Biz, that episode displayed his willingness to be the butt of the joke. Throughout his acting career, Biz Markie lit up the screen with his larger-than-life personality.
Legal Troubles and Later Career
Of course, Biz‘s career wasn‘t without its rough patches. His 1991 sampling lawsuit over the song "Alone Again" nearly derailed his rap career. While common practice in hip hop at the time, the stiff penalties left Biz bankrupt. Thankfully he bounced back in the late 90s, touring relentlessly and dropping new albums. He even poked fun at his troubles on tracks like "Bad Days, Sad Days." By the 2000s, Biz was rightly celebrated as a hip hop pioneer.
In his later years, Biz stayed busy with live shows, guest features, and even returned to kids‘ television on Yo Gabba Gabba to teach beatboxing. I was lucky enough to catch Biz performing a medley of hits at a Las Vegas music festival in 2019. Even late in life, his showmanship, charm, and musicality was on full display as he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Seeing Biz Markie live was a bucket list dream come true for this long-time fan.
Last Years and Death
In 2020, it was announced that the rap legend was hospitalized for complications from Type II diabetes. As the tributes poured in on social media, superstars like Missy Elliot pleaded for prayers for their dear friend Biz. Sadly, on July 16, 2021, at just 57 years old, Biz Markie passed away with his wife by his side. The outpouring of memories and condolences from heartbroken fans like myself was immense.
On July 20th, Biz Markie’s private funeral service took place in Long Island, attracting hip hop luminaries to pay respects. His tragic passing was a reminder to cherish the icons who bring us such joy while they‘re still with us. Though gone too soon, Biz Markie leaves an incredible legacy – as LL Cool J succinctly put it: "Biz built a bridge from hip hop to pop, and that‘s not an easy thing to do."
Why Biz Markie Was An Icon
- Pioneered beatboxing techniques still used by artists today
- Earned hip hop‘s first gold-certified single with "Just A Friend"
- Universal appeal that crossed over to pop music mainstream
- Infectious humor and lovable personality
- Collaborated with legends across rap and hip hop
- Remained dedicated to touring and fans his entire career
- An inspiration for generations of comedic rappers
Though his career faced ups and downs, Biz Markie‘s cultural impact is undeniable. His creative rhyme style and funny personality made generations of fans smile and laugh. For rap devotees like me, his music will remain in constant rotation – timeless songs that capture the joyful, carefree era of hip hop‘s golden age. We miss you Biz, but your legacy lives on.