2021 has proven to be brutal regarding the world of Hip Hop. This year took so many beloved artists away from us: Prince Markie Dee (of The Fat Boys), Shock G (also known as “Humpty Hump” from Digital Underground), Black Rob, DMX, and now Biz Markie.
I grew up on Biz and loved him well into my adult years. Despite that, I didn’t consistently see him during my childhood or adulthood. He’d pop up sporadically, and afterward, I wouldn’t hear too much from him for years on end. However, the times he did appear were always memorable, and for that reason, I’m going to post a tribute to the one and only Biz Markie where I discuss my favorite Biz moments from the last three decades (it’s very similar to the one I posted for Tiny Lister late last year).
I Got the Vapors Right Off the Bat!
If I remember correctly, my introduction to Biz Markie was the track “Vapors,” when I was about 7 or 8. Nine times out of ten, I probably watched the video on either Yo! MTV Raps or Rap City (I’m thinking it was the latter). Be sure to check out Big Daddy Kane in the video! Man, he was fine back in the day!
History in the Making
Y’all know I had to include the hit that Biz is best known for! I still remember when I first heard “Just a Friend”. It was a Friday afternoon, and I was in third grade, watching Yo! MTV Raps after school. When this gem came on, I loved it immediately, especially the hook. My mother was sitting in the back of our den, ironing clothes as she usually did back then, and shouted out, “Damn, that man can’t sing!” I couldn’t help but laugh at that, but my mother’s unfavorable opinion on the song never stopped me from enjoying it. Little did I realize I was watching a bonafide classic that would become a part of Hip Hop history. Years later, my mom would still refer to Biz as “that dude that couldn’t sing.” He may not be able to sing, but he made a bomb ass song nonetheless.
Let Biz Turn You On!
After Biz released “Just a Friend,” he dropped out of sight for a while. Then, when I was 12 years old, I went to a party and heard “Let Me Turn You On,” another track that showcases Biz’s vocal talents—or lack thereof. I don’t mean that in a nasty way, mind you. Biz’s way of singing really makes this song, as does the sample of McFadden & Whitehead’s “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” used on the track. What really makes “Let Me Turn You On” memorable for me is that I danced with boys for the first time—at my first teenage party, at that—while this tune played.
Biz as Wanda’s Uglier Sister!
During the final season of In Living Color, Biz made countless appearances, but one of my favorites has to be when he showed up as Wanda the Ugly Woman’s (Jamie Foxx) sister, Judy, who makes Wanda almost cute by comparison. This sketch still cracks me up, especially when Biz and Jamie break character and start laughing midway through it!
Men in Black II is my favorite film in the MIB trilogy (don’t judge me), and this scene is one of the reasons why. Biz has a cameo role where he plays a postal worker that speaks in beatbox, and he and Will have an exchange in Biz’s native tongue. I got a kick out of Biz and Will “speaking” to each other, and seeing Biz do his thing in this scene shows why he was one of the best human beatboxers in the industry. I have to give Will props for holding his own alongside Biz, too.
The Rolling Stones featuring Biz Markie
I know y’all are probably thinking, “What the hell is a Rolling Stones song doing on this Biz Markie tribute?” Allow me to explain: back in 1997, The Rolling Stones made a song entitled “Anybody Seen My Baby,” and near the end of the track, you can hear a rapper shouting out all the different NYC boroughs. It turns out the rapper was Biz. I remember reading about Biz being sampled in the song and thinking it was so cool that rock legends like The Rolling Stones decided to pay homage to a Hip Hop mogul. It just shows that Biz was more than just the one-hit wonder so many people like to write him off as.
Let’s Practice Biz’s Beat of the Day!
There’s a young girl my mother and I helped raise, and when she was a toddler, she loved to watch Yo Gabba Gabba! I liked to watch the show with her, despite the fact that it was so freaky lookin’ it made HR Pufnstuf look like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. I take that back…Yo Gabba Gabba! is weird, but cute, while HR Pufnstuf was a damn acid trip come to life. Anyway, one of my favorite segments from Yo Gabba Gabba! was “Biz’s Beat of the Day,” where Biz would do a beatbox for the kids to practice. It was fun, easy to learn, and a creative way for kids to explore their artistic side. I loved it. The video above shows a compilation of nearly all of Biz’s beats for the day. Enjoy!
Biz Surprises Cookie
During season three of Empire (when the show was still entertaining), Lucious was determined to win Cookie back by any means necessary (despite being married to Anika at the time). During this season, we learned that teenaged Cookie and Lucious first fell in love when the future Mrs. Lyon saw Lucious rap the lyrics to “Just a Friend” on their street corner. In an attempt to make Cookie fall for him again, Lucious got Biz to show up at Cookie’s apartment to perform”Just a Friend” exclusively for her. Although Lucious’s ploy failed miserably, Biz’s cameo and Cookie’s psyched reaction to seeing him sing her favorite song was heartwarming.
Rest in power, Biz.
Marcel Theo Hall aka Biz Markie: April 8, 1964 – July 16, 2021
—Written by Nadiya