The sad news Friday evening that hip hop legend Biz Markie, 57, had “peacefully passed away, with his wife Tara by his side,” saddened many worldwide. For the past decade-plus he dealt with health issues related to Type 2 diabetes. After initially being diagnosed with the disease he lost 140 pounds. “I wanted to live,” he said in 2014. Having been hospitalized in April 2020, and enduring a stroke later that year, caused his health to deteriorate, leading to false reports of his death last month.
Born in Harlem April 8, 1964, Marcel Theo Hall resided at uptown’s Colonial Houses before moving to Long Island as a youth where he was known as ‘Markie.’ When he started rhyming during the early 1980s he added ‘Biz’ to his name, paying homage to one of his inspirations, Busy Bee. He also incorporated beatboxing and DJ-ing, then started hitting popular night clubs.
“He was always fun to hang out with and was funny as hell,” remembered Paradise Gray, the “Architect” of hip hop, and Latin Quarters’ former manager, also recalling them crossing paths at the Fun House, Roxy, and Roseland clubs. “Me, Biz and Red Alert warmed up the crowd at Latin Quarters, telling jokes for 20-25 minutes before showtime.”
After years of honing his talents, he got bolder in the mid-1980s.
“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 recalled. They recorded demos at Marley’s Queensbridge apartment.
Biz’s innovative style intertwined beatboxing, easily understood lyrics and sometimes comical ’hood humor. The ‘Inhuman Orchestra’ was initially displayed on Roxanne Shanté’s 1986, “The Def Fresh Crew.” Later that year, the Marley Marl-produced EP, “Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz,” was released. After battling a teen-aged Big Daddy Kane at Brooklyn’s Albee Square Mall, he introduced him to Marley.
Biz’s 1988 debut “Goin’ Off,” featured classic tracks “Pickin’ Boogers,” the biographical “Vapors,” “Nobody Beat the Biz,” and “The Biz Dance.”
His 1989 follow-up “The Biz Never Sleeps,” featured the crossover smash hit “Just A Friend” which was accompanied by a hilarious video depicting Biz Mozart-costumed out, playing a piano while overly singing the hook off-key: “Yooouuuu, got whaaat I need!”
“I asked people to sing the part, and nobody showed up at the studio,” he explained, “so I did it myself.”
He realized how huge it was “when Howard Stern and Frankie Crocker and all the white stations around the country started playing it. Usually when I make a record, I know what the potential is going to be, but I didn’t know that ‘Just a Friend’ was going to be that big. ‘Just a Friend’ opened a world up where I never knew the difference between being a pop star and a regular rap star. It was crazy.”
It sold platinum, hitting No. 5 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart and No. 9 on its Hot 100. He followed with 1991’s “I Need A Haircut,” 1993’s “All Samples Cleared,” and 2003’s “Weekend Warrior.”
“..Haircut” caused a sampling lawsuit which changed the record business. Biz was fined $250,000 for not clearing samples and the album was shelved. Subsequently, labels were mandated to clear samples prior to releasing music.
“Biz Markie is always going to be remembered in my heart. He inspired hip hop so much with his unique way of raps and beats,” reflected hip hop artist, Paula Perry. “The first person I ever seen bang on his neck and make sounds. May he rest in paradise. His memory will live on forever.”
The avid record collector also DJ-ed popular events, and acted in several films and TV shows, including “Men in Black II.”
On Monday’s WBLS “MiddayMix Show,” Marley Marl dedicated an entire hour to his former protégé, playing Biz’s first demo and other rare classics. “There will never be another Biz Markie. He’s like a James Brown or Michael Jackson,” Marley noted.