Biz Markie Has Passed Away At Age 57

A challenging year for the Hip-Hop community continues to become more tragic. In a breaking news story, Biz Markie has died at the age of 57. The legendary MC, DJ, and producer born Marcel Hall passed away this evening (July 16) after a decade-plus-long bout with type 2 diabetes. TMZ reported the passing. A July 2020 report revealed that Biz had been hospitalized near his home in Maryland since April of that year. Last month, several publications prematurely reported Biz Markie’s passing, prompting anger from the artist’s family and his peers.

A recent episode of Ambrosia For HeadsWhat’s The Headline podcast celebrated Biz Markie’s greatness and addressed the premature reports of his death (at 6:34):

In 2013 the Juice Crew star spoke with New York Daily News about his health condition. At that time, Biz reported dropping from 385 to 244 pounds. “I walk. I do the treadmill; I walk around the mall,” he said. “I do a [few] crunches with my stomach, not that much. Just enough to get the engine going.” In a subsequent interview with ABC News, the B-I-Z said that he decided to take action regarding his weight because “I wanted to live…Since I have to be a diabetic, if I didn’t make the changes, it was going to make the diabetes worse.”

The Battle Between Big Daddy Kane & Biz Markie At Brooklyn’s Albee Square Mall (Narrated by LL Cool J)

Biz Markie first earned recognition as a beat-boxer and an MC. The Uptown Manhattan native spent his formative years between Long Island and Queens. By the mid-1980s, he was recognized for competitive rap battles, including a 1984 standoff against a teenaged Big Daddy Kane outside of Brooklyn’s Albee Square Mall. The squaring off fast evolved to a friendship; the pair planned on recording together, which they eventually did.

In the years that followed, that happened. Both MCs signed to Tyrone “Fly Ty” Williams’ Cold Chillin’ Records and worked closely with the label’s star producer/DJ, Marley Marl. “When I felt that I was good enough [at making music], I went to Marley Marl’s house and sat on his stoop every day until he noticed me, and that’s how I got my start,” the artist was quoted as saying. While Biz compiled samples for beats on early Kane records, King Asiatic offered to pen some rhymes for the multi-threat. “Nobody Beats The Biz” and “Vapors” were songs that featured the pair’s behind-the-scenes collaboration, according to Kane. Meanwhile, Biz provided beatboxing and tour support for another Marley Marl protege: Roxanne Shanté, as detailed in the film Roxanne, Roxanne. Biz debuted on Shanté’s “Def Fresh Crew” single, first released on Philadelphia’s Pop Art label in 1986, complete with beatboxing and a rendition of a famous cat food jingle.

Big Daddy Kane Details The Rich History Of How The Juice Crew Started (Video)

By 1988, “The Diabolical Biz Markie” had become a breakout star. His debut Goin’ Off included hits such as “Nobody Beats The Biz,” beatbox anthem “Make The Music With Your Mouth,” rags-to-riches storytelling in “Vapors,” and the semi-autobiographical “Albee Square Mall.”  The artist’s squad included DJ Cool V and singer TJ Swann, with Marley credited on beats. Much of the debut was recorded in the previous two years (with some of the singles previously released on Prism Records), reflecting a slow rise for a Hip-Hop star with talent, charisma, and mainstream accessibility.

Biz’s follow-up album, 1989’s The Biz Never Sleeps, is where he cashed in on his fame. “Just A Friend” saw the whimsical Rap star breaking into song for the chorus of a song about unrequited love and relationship issues. The self-produced track re-purposed the chorus and bassline from a late 1960s Freddie Scott track, “Got What I Need.” Biz dazzled the MTV generation with antics in a Lionel C. Martin-directed video (Video Music Box) that included a Mozart homage, easy dance steps, and a plethora of truck jewels. The Top 10 pop chart single went platinum in early 1990, with the album also going gold. The platinum benchmark extended B-I-Z past Kane, Shanté, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, and other members of the Juice Crew/Cold Chillin’ outfit.

Bumpy Knuckles & Biz Markie Team Up For A Video With A Purpose. Check It Out, Y’all.

However, by the 1990s, Biz Markie’s adapted to a fast-changing environment in Hip-Hop and commercial music. The artist’s self-produced third LP, 1991’s I Need A Haircut, may be best remembered for its sample lawsuit regarding the Gilbert O’Sullivan litigation regarding Biz’s song of the same name, “Alone Again (Naturally).” The sample was not cleared by the artist before release, leading to a cease-and-desist and monetary compensation. The landmark case arrived at a time when sampling was prominent in Hip-Hop, but its risks increasingly cautioned major labels. Warner Bros. Records was distributing Cold Chillin’ and removed the album from shelves. By 1993, the artist made light of the issue with his fourth album, All Samples Cleared! The album marked his last for more than a decade when Biz returned with The Weekend Warrior. That LP, Biz’s only off of Cold Chillin’ (working with Tommy Boy), involved a cross-section of Hip-Hop, including Diddy, Erick Sermon, 45 King, and DJ Jazzy Jeff as well as underground stalwarts J-Zone and Kev Brown.

Outside of album-making, Biz Markie focused on DJ’ing, production, and acting. Apart from many Juice Crew collaborations, he worked closely in producing and developing other Cold Chillin’ Records acts, such as Grand Daddy I.U. and Kid Capri. Although Redman would eventually settle in with Def Squad, Biz was an early mentor to the Newark, New Jersey artist who cut his teeth on the battle circuit. The turntablist joined the Flip Squad DJs, alongside Funkmaster Flex, Mister Cee, Big Kap, Cipha Sounds, Mark Ronson, Doo Wop, and others. Behind the turntables, B-I-Z also appeared on the famed Spitkicker Tour alongside De La Soul, Reflection Eternal, Common, and others. Biz became a recurring featured guest during the final seasons of In Living Color. He featured on popular songs by Beastie Boys, Len, and Will Smith—alongside a cameo appearance in Men In Black II. He was a multi-season cast member on Nick Cannon’s Wild’n Out as well as Nickelodeon’s Yo Gabba Gabba! program.

Biz Markie Details How He Made The Mazda MPV A Hip-Hop Symbol

In recent years, Biz made appearances on albums by Bumpy Knuckles & Nottz, The Flaming Lips, and Cut Chemist, among others. He hosted a show on LL Cool J’s Rock The Bells radio station, and acted (often as himself) in Black-Ish, Empire, and Sharknado 2.

Ambrosia For Heads extends condolences to Biz Markie’s family, the Juice Crew, and his many friends and fans.