Biz Markie, the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” who grew up in Patchogue, passed away Friday.
“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,” Jenni Izumi, Markie’s representative, said in a statement. “We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time.”
The pioneering artist’s cause of death was not addressed in the statement, but Markie had Type 2 diabetes, was hospitalized last year due to complications related to the life-long illness and suffered a stroke later in the year.
“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,” Izumi said. “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.”
Beatboxing and guest appearing
Born Marcel Theo Hall April 8, 1964, Markie was a crucial figure in the NYC-centric new school of hip hop in the early ’80s. He was one of the rappers in the legendary Juice Crew, a Queensbridge group united by DJ Magic Mike and Marley Marl that featured Markie’s high school friend, Big Daddy Kane, as well as Masta Ace, Roxanne Shante and Kool G Rap.
His first charting single, “Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz,” produced by Marl, introduced the nation to the Patchogue-native’s impressive beatboxing ability, a staple across his discography.
31 years later, the rapper is perhaps best-known for his platinum-certified 1990 single, “Just a Friend,” which reached number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. The track highlighted the MC’s baritone singing voice over Freddie Scott’s 1968 track “(You) Got What I Need.”
His sophomore full-length that spawned the hit, “The Biz Never Sleeps,” which also boasted “Spring Again” went gold six months after its Oct 10, 1989 release on Cold Chillin’ records.
Mackie released three more studio albums, the last of which, “Weekend Warrior” arrived in 2003 after a decade without a release from the rapper. Despite no additions to his own catalog, he was a frequent presence throughout the industry, working with artists like De La Soul, The Rolling Stones, Will Smith and the Beastie Boys.
He also appeared in television comedy series like “In Living Color” and “Crank Yankers,” and children’s shows “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “Yo Gabba Gabba.” He even cameoed as himself in shows like “Black-ish” and “Empire,” and performed “Just a Friend” in both.
2002’s “Men in Black II” featured a particularly memorable appearance from Mackie, in which he portrayed a parody of himself in the form of an extraterrestrial beatboxing mail sorter.
The most crucial hallmark of Markie’s music is his timeless hilarity, which earned him his moniker the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop”. From the comical chemical-wielding photo session for “The Biz Never Sleeps” to the class clown antics of “Pickin’ Boogers,” that kicks off his 1988 debut album “Goin’ Off,” one does not laugh at Markie, but rather laugh with him.
In 1991, Markie’s song “Alone Again” off “I Need a Haircut” became the focus of a court case with a decision that reverberated throughout the music industry. His track sampled Gilbert O’Sullivan “Along Again (Naturally),” spawning the district court case Grand Upright Music Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. The judge ruled record labels must get clearance from all copyright holders to sample tracks.
This meant sampling, a backbone of hip-hop during the late-eighties, became exponentially more costly, after payments to songwriters, recording artists and record labels.
The following year, Mackie released the tongue-in-cheek “All Samples Cleared!” which slyly and economically sampled five renditions of Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life Woman.”
The Clown Prince had the last laugh.