Harlem’s Biz Markie Rapper, Clown Prince Of Hip Hop, Singer, DJ, Producer, And Writer 1964 – 2021

Marcel Theo Hall aka Biz Markie, April 8, 1964 – July 16, 2021, better known by his stage name Biz Markie, was a Harlem rapper, singer, DJ, record producer, actor, comedian, and writer.

He was best known for his 1989 single “Just a Friend”, which became a Top 40 hit in several countries. In 2008, “Just a Friend” made No. 100 on VH1’s list of the 100 greatest hip-hop songs of all time.

Markie has been called the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop”.


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Early life

Markie was born in Harlem. He was raised on Long Island and graduated from Brentwood High School in 1982.

Markie began his career in New York City nightclubs and later gained regional recognition by performing at colleges in Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Virginia; and Pennsylvania.

Career

1980s

Biz Markie was interviewed in the 1986 cult documentary Big Fun in the Big Town.

Markie released his debut album, Goin’ Off, in 1988, which attracted a fair amount of attention, largely due to the lead single, “Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz“.

The album also featured the underground hit singles “Nobody Beats The Biz”, “Vapors“, and “Pickin’ Boogers”.

On October 10, 1989, Markie’s second studio album, The Biz Never Sleeps was released on Cold Chillin’/Warner Bros.

Records, produced by Markie, his cousin Cool V and Paul C. The single “Just a Friend”, in which he alternates between rap and singing, became Markie’s most successful single, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard charts.

The song interpolates the 1968 song “You Got What I Need” by singer-songwriter Freddie Scott, whose basic chord and melody provided the base for the song’s chorus.

“Just a Friend” was ranked 81st on VH1’s 100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders in 2000, and later as number 100 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop in 2008.

Biz Maekie’s Just a Friend:

The music video, directed by Lionel C. Martin, chronicles the rapper’s woman problems.

1990s

Markie’s third studio album I Need a Haircut was released on August 27, 1991, on Cold Chillin’/Warner Bros. Records and was produced by Markie and his cousin Cool V.

Sales of the album were already low when Markie was served a lawsuit by Gilbert O’Sullivan, who claimed that the album’s “Alone Again” featured an unauthorized sample from his hit “Alone Again (Naturally)”.

O’Sullivan’s claim was upheld in a landmark ruling, Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc., that altered the landscape of hip-hop, finding that all samples must be cleared with the original artist before being used.

In accordance with the ruling, Warner Bros., the parent company of Cold Chillin’, had to pull I Need a Haircut from circulation, and all companies had to clear samples with the samples’ creators before releasing the records.

This development reflected the increasing popularity of hip-hop and the financial stakes over which releases were set.

Markie responded in 1993 with the mischievously titled All Samples Cleared!, but his career had been hurt by the publicity emanating from the lawsuit, and the record suffered accordingly.

For the remainder of the decade, Markie occasionally made television appearances, including guest appearances on In Living Color (including as contestant Damian “Foosball” Franklin in the recurring game show sketch “The Dirty Dozens” and as Marlon Cain in “Ed Bacon: Guidance Counselor”) and in a 1996 freestyle rap commercial on MTV2.

He also made numerous guest appearances with the Beastie Boys on Check Your Head (1992), Ill Communication (1994), Hello Nasty (1998), and their anthology The Sounds of Science (1999).

He also rapped on the song “Schizo Jam” on Don Byron’s 1998 release, Nu Blaxploitation (Blue Note/Capitol), and worked with Canibus on the first track on the Office Space soundtrack (1999).

He also rapped on the track “So Fresh” alongside Slick Rick on Will Smith’s 1999 album Willennium.

In 1996, Markie appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s compilation CD, America Is Dying Slowly, alongside Wu-Tang Clan, Coolio, and Fat Joe, among others.

The CD, meant to raise awareness of the AIDS epidemic among African-American men.

In 1997, a sample of a Markie recording appeared in the Rolling Stones’ song “Anybody Seen My Baby?” from their album Bridges to Babylon.

Markie also teamed up with Frankie Cutlass on his third single and music video titled “The Cypher Part 3” with some of Marley Marl’s Juice Crew veterans.

In 1999, Markie appeared on Len’s song “Beautiful Day” on their album You Can’t Stop the Bum Rush, as well as on Alliance Ethnik’s album Fat Comeback.

2000s

In 2002, Markie appeared in Men in Black II, with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, playing an alien parody of himself, whose native language sounded exactly like beatboxing.

Between 2002 and 2003, he appeared in episode 5 of the TV series Fastlane playing himself as a nightclub DJ.

In 2003, he appeared in the international television series Kung Faux performing a series of voice-over characters featured in a variety of episodes.

In 2004, his song Vapors appeared on the soundtrack of the Rockstar video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas which featured an old-school hip hop radio station, Playback FM.

In 2005, Markie detoured from his recording duties to appear on the first season of the television show Celebrity Fit Club which challenged celebrities to lose weight by a combination of diet and exercise. Markie lost more weight than anybody else in the competition.

That year, he was also in an episode of The Andy Milonakis Show. Also “Pickin’ Boogers” was in Saints Row 1 Markie was a cast member on Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘n Out, seasons 1 and 3.

Markie also performed a beatboxing segment “Biz’s Beat of the Day” on the Nick Jr. show Yo Gabba Gabba!.

Markie began opening in 2008 for Chris Rock’s “No Apologies” tour. Markie’s act included spinning records ranging from old school hip hop to Lynyrd Skynyrd and then performing “Just a Friend”.

Markie’s playlist included the following: “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick, “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang, “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, “Holiday” by Madonna, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!, “It Takes Two” by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, “The Breaks” by Kurtis Blow and “Robot Rock” by Daft Punk.

In December 2009, Biz Markie appeared in a RadioShack commercial, repeating the line: “Oh Snap! Guess what I saw!” from his song “Just a Friend”.

That same year saw his debut with Andy Milonakis in television commercials for the commercial Internet service Tune-Up.

2010s

In 2010, Markie appeared on VH1’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, providing commentary throughout the series. Markie himself was not included on the list.

On November 9, 2010, he appeared on The Aquabats! new EP, Radio Down! on the title track. On November 11, 2010, Markie sat in with the Roots on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and performed “Just a Friend” with actor Jeff Goldblum.

In 2013, Markie toured with the Yo Gabba Gabba! live show. That year, his song, “Just a Friend” was featured in Saints Row IV, which included the Pop station, 107.77 The Mix FM. He appeared on the CN show Mad, as the Hip Hop Hobbit.

He voiced rapper Rhymez and his DJ, Tiny Timmy Scratch It, in the Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja episode “Hip Hopocalypse Now”.

Markie guest-starred in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode “Kenny the Cat”, in the episode’s title role. His voice acting work also includes the voice of Snorlock the Beatboxing Slug in an episode of Adventure Time.

In 2014, Markie appeared in the Syfy network film Sharknado 2: The Second One. That same year, he threw a ceremonial first pitch for an Oakland Athletics baseball game.

In 2016, his song, “Just a Friend” was featured in the Netflix Series Love as an ending theme for episode 4.

He also made an appearance in the song “The Big Eater” off the album Wildflower by the Avalanches.

Also in 2016, he appeared on the Fox TV series Empire as himself, where he performed “Just a Friend”.

Markie was the DJ on the VH1 game show Hip Hop Squares between 2017 and 2019, a spin-off of the popular game show Hollywood Squares.

He also rapped alongside singer Ke$ha on the Flaming Lips song “2012 (You Must Be Upgraded)”.

He made an appearance in the season 3 finale of the ABC series Black-ish in 2017. He performed a personal version of the song “Just a Friend”, in which he added the names of the characters.

2020s

In 2020, Markie started hosting a radio show on SiriusXM’s LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells Radio (channel 43) every weekday from 13:00 to 16:00 EST.

Illness and death

In April 2020, Markie was hospitalized due to severe complications from Type 2 diabetes.

As of July 2020, his wife and family have not commented publicly on his condition.

In December 2020, it was reported that Markie was staying in a rehabilitation facility as a result of a stroke he had suffered after going into a diabetic coma.

On July 1, 2021, rumors of his death circulated on Twitter. His representative told Rolling Stone, “The news of Biz Markie’s passing is not true, Biz is still under medical care, surrounded by professionals who are working hard to provide the best healthcare possible.”

On July 16, 2021, Markie died from diabetes-related complications.

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