Biz Markie, Hip-Hop Legend Known For ‘Just a Friend,’ Dies

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Biz Markie in his “Just a Friend” video

Biz Markie, a rapper, DJ, record producer, actor and beat box virtuoso, died today (July 16, 2021). The news of his death at age 57 was announced by his manager, Jenni Izumi. TMZ reported that he had been in ill health due to diabetes.

“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,” the statement read.

“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 Hall in Harlem on April 8, 1964, he moved with his family to Long Island and dazzled his neighborhood at the age of 14 under the alias of Biz Markie. His music debut began in 1985 as a beat box for Roxanne Shante of the Juice Crew.

By 1988, he earned a recording contract with Cold Chillin’ Records, which released his debut album, Goin’ Off. The follow-up, 1989’s The Biz Never Sleeps, which he produced with his cousin Cool V, included “Just a Friend.” The song “Just a Friend,” which Markie wrote and produced, became a significant hit, reaching #9 on the Hot 100.

The song refers to “(You) Got a What I Need,” a 1968 recording by Freddie Scott. Markie’s version features a simple piano riff accompanied by his hip-hop lyrics, sung in an off-kilter voice. It remains his only charting single but a memorable one, used in an episode of MTV’s animated series, Beavis and Butt-Head and in a TV commercial for Heineken a decade later.

Markie was later given the nickname, “The Clown Prince of Hip-Hop.”

Tributes included those from fellow DJs and rappers including Grandmaster Flash who wrote, “I’m gonna miss Marlon pestering me for the name of private breaks. I could remember him calling me and Singing the Break to me… Damnnnnn I’m really gonna miss you Biz Markie Rest In Peace.”

Funk legend William “Bootsy” Collins wrote, “To a lot of us he was more than Just a Friend. R.I.P. Prayers going out to the family & friends.”

Related: Musicians we’ve lost in 2021

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