Biz Markie, the influential New York rapper, singer, and actor behind the 1989 banger “Just a Friend,” has passed away in Baltimore on Friday. He was 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,” his rep Jenni Izumi said in a statement.
“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.”
Born Marcel Theo Hall in Harlem, New York on April 8, 1964, he grew up on Long Island (my old stomping grounds) before moving back to the Big Apple to pursue a career in music. After playing many nightclubs and colleges, Markie found himself joining Marley Marl’s Juice Crew, where he performed alongside Roxanne Shanté and MC Shan. Though he didn’t pioneer the artform, Markie was known for being an inspiring beatboxer. He released his debut album, “Goin’ Off,” on the Cold Chillin’ imprint in 1988, which included the singles “Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz,” “Vapors” and “Nobody Beats the Biz.” His next record, “The Biz Never Sleeps,” produced the catchy tune “Just a Friend,” a classic track if there ever was one.
In 1991, Markie found himself slapped with a copywriter lawsuit after sampling Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” without permission. Eventually, the judge overseeing the case ruled against Markie, a verdict that put the fear of God in hip-hop producers across the board. After the ruling, producers would have to rethink their sampling approach. It changed everything, including Markie’s career.
In addition to his music career, Markie made several film and television appearances, including the role of the rapping alien in Men in Black. He’d also contributed to such television programs as In Living Color, Yo Gabba Gabba, and Comedy Central’s puppet comedy Crank Yankers. In the realm of animation, Markie’s voice can be heard on such shows as SpongeBob SquarePants and Adventure Time. Sadly, Markie was in the process of filming Eric Orr’s Chaaw, which highlights stories of victims of Injustice in America. According to the film’s description, the law protects the murderers and traumatizes the family of the slain victims causing them to seek help from a spiritual adviser.
We here at JoBlo would like to extend our sincere condolences to Mr. Markie’s family, friends, and fans. May his legacy live on in those he inspired for years to come.