Golden Age rapper Biz Markie has passed at age 57. The rapper had a stroke in 2020 and had been recovering. He became famous for his 1989 hit “Just A Friend” and helped introduce beatboxing to the world. Biz Markie’s benevolent humor made him an unusual jester in hip-hop when his peers were all working hard to be cool and invincible. He was a member of the revered Juice Crew with Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shante, MC Shan and Kool G Rap. Biz Markie’s 1988 debut album Goin’ Off was a classic of the era thanks to “Vapors,” “Pickin’ Boogers” “Nobody Beats The Biz” “Biz Is Goin Off” and “Nobody Beats The Biz.” His 1989 sophomore album The Biz Never Sleeps contained “Just A Friend” and was an important moment in hip-hop. “Just A Friend” is the earliest instance of a rapper singing years before Ja Rule made duets with Ashanti. His third album I Need A Haircut was another pioneering release for hip-hop because of the legal issues it set off thanks to a sample of Gilbert O’ Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally.)” Sullivan sued Biz Markie which resulted in a landmark judgement that required all future samples to be cleared by the original copyright owner.
Biz Markie released one more album in the ’90s, All Samples Cleared! before focusing on television appearances and guesting on music projects. In 1996, he appeared on the Red Hot Organization’s America Is Dying Slowly which was designed to bring A.I.D.S. awareness to young Black men. In the 2000s he appeared in Men In Black II and popped up on various television shows including Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘n Out. He worked as a DJ opening for Chris Rock’s No Apologies tour and regularly played industry parties. His final studio album Weekend Warriors was released in 2003.
He was the official DJ for VH-1’s Hip Hop Squares from 2017-2019. Viewers of the TV show Black-ish saw him perform “Just A Friend” on the season three finale. In 2020, he started hosting a Siriux XM radio show on LL Cool J’s Rock The Bells channel.
Biz Markie’s one of kind legacy is seen and heard everytime a rapper beatboxes, sings and needs to clear a sample for a song. His Harlem roots expanded from New York City to the world and is a reminder that it is OK for a rapper to smile and that the core of hip-hop is fun.