Biz Markie, rapper, DJ, Juice Crew member and beatbox king, has died 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," reads a statement from Markie's rep, Jenni Izumi. "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."
There has always been only one Biz Markie. The Long Island-raised rapper born Marcel Hall became a Hip-Hop star on the strength of his outsized persona, gift for beatboxing and comical hit singles; Biz has left an indelible mark in music and on the culture. For more than 35 years, "The Clown Prince Of Hip-Hop" was a fixture on the radio, in music videos, movies, TV shows and as one of the most in-demand DJs in the world.
Biz initially rose to fame as a member of the fabled Juice Crew; a collective of New York City emcees shepherded by superproducer Marley Marl. The Crew included the debonair Big Daddy Kane; streetwise Kool G Rap; the battle rap queen Roxanne Shante, charismatic Craig G. and brainy wordsmith Masta Ace—but Biz stood out even amongst the uber-talented ensemble. It was Biz who convinced Kane to come with him to meet up with the Cold Chillin' Records camp, which led to the formation of the Juice Crew. Biz's first single, the TJ Swan-assisted "Make the Music With Your Mouth," highlighted his distinct beatboxing over a sample of Isaac Hayes' "Ike's Mood" and set the table for his successful debut album, Goin' Off. The Cold Chillin' release established Biz Markie's staples: funny story raps, beatboxing and infectious production from Marley Marl.
Biz and Marley would make magic on arguably the album's most memorable track, "Vapors." An ode to fake people who suddenly love you when you're on top, Biz's famous story song was a collaboration with Big Daddy Kane and featured one of Marley's most iconic beats. The beloved song would become a Hip-Hop staple, famously covered by Snoop Dogg for his 1996 hit of the same name.
His sophomore album The Biz Never Sleeps was an even bigger success, featuring the hit single "Just A Friend." The song would become Biz Markie's signature tune, a catchy look at an girlfriend's infidelity with Biz's infamously off-key chorus. The song hit the Billboard Top Ten and became a fixture in pop culture, featured on countless compilations and soundtracks; and was reworked for Mario's hit "Just A Friend" in 2002, and Austin Mahone revisited the track for his 2012 hit "Say You're Just A Friend" with Flo Rida.
His third album I Need A Haircut, would put Biz Markie squarely in the middle of Hip-Hop's fight for sampling, as Gilbert O'Sullivan filed suit against the rapper for sampling O'Sullivan's song "Alone Again (Naturally)" for Biz's track "Alone Again." The case would forever alter the trajectory of sampling in Hip-Hop; and led to tighter sampling laws. Meanwhile, Biz's persona would make him a regular on countless TV shows, including Martin and In Living Color, while making frequent appearances on tracks by Beastie Boys, Canibus and others.
One of his most memorable movie appearances was as a suspiciously Biz Markie-like alien in 2002's Men In Black II.
Biz appears as an extraterrestrial who Special Agent J (Will Smith) can only speak to in his native language, which incidentally, sounds a lot like beatboxing. It's a standout moment in the film and highlights Biz's musical and comedic gifts.
In the 2000s, Biz Markie made appearances on popular shows ranging from Celebrity Fit Club to Wild 'n Out, and his distinctive voice made him a no-brainer for cartoon work on shows like Spongebob Squarepants and he had "Biz's Beat Of The Day," his own segment on popular children's series Yo Gabba Gabba!
“I didn’t like what was on TV for the kids,” Biz Markie said in an interview with theGrio back in 2012. “So a guy, Christian and Scott…We all got together and made Yo Gabba Gabba! It’s important because it’s a natural thing where you can grow and use your imagination. Everything is digital these days, but with Hip-Hop you can use your imagination."
Of course, Biz was also one of Hip-Hop's most in-demand DJs; playing opening dates for Chris Rock's "No Apologies Tour" in 2008; becoming a frequent spinner at various House of Blues locations, and eventually joining Rock The Bells Radio as one of the Sirius/XM channel's most popular hosts. And he fought to raise awareness around health issues, as he battled his own. Biz wanted everyone to take diabetes seriously. In 2014, he talked about losing 140 lbs in an effort to improve his health after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes three years prior and became a pitchman for zero-calorie soda brand Zevia.
The loss of Biz Markie is heartbreaking for anyone who loved his humor, spirit and creativity. And his family has lost a truly kind spirit who touched those who he came in contact with. Hip-Hop has lost one of it's most unique lights and we will always cherish the legacy of Marcel Hall. He represented Hip-Hop's purest spirit; that spirit of love, community, child-like whimsy and having fun. Biz Markie embodied all of those things and it took him across the world, it brought him into our kids' living rooms, and it made him the best kind of ambassador for the culture. The world loved him. The culture already misses him.
Nobody ever, ever beats the Biz.
YOU CAN CHECK OUT SOME REACTIONS TO BIZ MARKIE'S PASSING BELOW: