Biz Markie, New York musician whose heyday coincided with the golden age of hip hop, somewhere between the eighties and the nineties, died this Friday in Baltimore (USA), as confirmed by his representative. Markie also made pop music history with his great success, Just a Friend, included in his second album, The Biz Never Sleeps (1989). His distinguishing mark was his sense of humor at a time when a certain rap preferred not to take himself too seriously and often flirted with comedy, before embracing the violent aesthetic of the gangsta, and before also embracing the most obscene face of capitalism with the cult of bling bling. His tendency to joke without complications, although effective, and his covers, like the album I Need a Haircut (1991), in which he was seen in a barbershop with a hairdresser wielding a chainsaw, they earned him the alias of The Clown Prince of Hip Hop, something like the “prince of hip hop clowns.”
That playful spirit, the taste for samplers classics (like that irresistible piano line soul of Freddie Scott, en Just a Friend) and its pioneer status beatboxing, a technique that turns the human being into a drum machine, were his weapons to stand out in the genre in a time and a city, New York, that had plenty of talent.
“We appreciate the many calls and prayers of support we have received during this difficult time. With his art, Biz left a legacy that will always be celebrated by his peers in the industry and his beloved fans, ”the family said in a statement sent to The Hollywood Reporter. The causes of death have not been revealed, although he had been diagnosed with diabetes for a decade and was hospitalized at the beginning of the year.
Born Marcel Hall in 1964, his adolescence coincided with the explosion of rap. He was there at the beginning, along with key names from the New York scene, like Roxanne Shanté, Marley Marl, Kool G Rap or Big Daddy Kane (a childhood friend who also mixed rhymes with histrionics and wrote some of his lyrics). After a stage in the mid-eighties as beatboxer, joined, along with the aforementioned musicians, to the Juice Crew collective in Queensbridge, gigantic development of social housing and essential place of the cartography of hip hop of the time. The band was guided by radio host DJ Mr Magic, whose program Rap Attack it was the first, in the early eighties, dedicated to the genre to be broadcast on a wide range radio. The group’s record arm, which would be incorporated into rap references of the nineties such as Masta Ace, was the Cold Chillin ‘label, which, with its unmistakable typography, was synonymous with talented and unprejudiced music since the end of the previous decade.
He made his solo debut in 1988, with the album Goin’ Off. One of his early hits was Vapors, which was based on an old James Brown song and later covered in 1997 by West Coast musician Snoop Doggy Dogg. Just a Friend, contained in his second album, the following year, reached the top 10 In an age when the charts were serious business.
In 1990, he starred in an epoch-making episode. It was when Gilbert O’Sullivan sued him, considering that the issue Alone Again of Biz Markie’s third album, it contained eight bars of Alone Again (Naturally) (1972), success of the Irish pop singer. The rapper had not asked permission to do so. He was sentenced to a fine of 250,000 euros in damages and the distribution of the album was stopped. The disc was returned to stores in 1995, without the subject in question.
The ruling set a precedent and in a way ended an age of innocence in rap, whose aesthetic is based on the use of previously recorded material to create new emotions. In those years, the producers learned that, if they wanted to continue with their practices, they had to ask permission before, which creatively influenced the genre, which sometimes chose to split more samplers until they were unrecognizable and he searched in less trodden terrain, in the repertoire of artists with less powerful lawyers. The run-in with O’Sullivan inspired Markie’s fourth album, titled 1993 All Samples Cleared! (which can be translated as “all samplers are declared ”).
He would return to the studio in 2003 for the Tommy Boy label, with a forgettable album, Weekend Warrior, in which he continued to display good humor, as evidenced by his cover, in which he is seen wearing Indian feathers and a naked torso. Like many of the pioneers of rap, he found it difficult to stay in the gap, despite not yet having turned 30. He left some film and television appearances. In recent times he lived in the sparsely rapper town of Bowie, in the state of Maryland, and in an interview in The Washington Post, Awarded to announce one of his DJ appearances, he declared in 2019 something that, if not an epitaph, sounds a lot like him: “I’m going to be Biz Markie until I die. Even after I’m dead, I’ll still be Biz Markie. “