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17 July 2021

Biz Markie, ‘Just A Friend’ Rapper Dies, Aged 57

Biz Markie
Alamy
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Biz Markie, the much-loved rapper, producer, and beatboxer whose sense of fun, off-kilter approach to his craft and boundary-pushing music made him a hip-hop great, died Friday at the age of 57.

“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,” his representative Jenni Izumi said in a statement. “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,” Izumi added. “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.”

While a cause of death was not revealed, the rapper had struggled of late with health issues related to his Type 2 diabetes. In April 2020, he was hospitalised due to complications related to the disease, and later that year suffered a stroke after going into a diabetic coma. Although the rapper was rehabilitating, his condition continued to decline, leading to premature reports of Markie’s death in late June.

The Harlem-born, Long Island–raised MC was a member of the legendary Juice Crew, the Queensbridge collective assembled by DJ Magic Mike and Marley Marl, and featuring fellow rappersBig Daddy Kane, Masta Ace, Roxanne Shante, and Kool G Rap. Over the course of five albums — most notably 1988’s Goin’ Off and 1989’s The Biz Never Sleeps — the producer-MC, whose real name was Marcel Hall, developed a unique style: a mix of half-sung (and intentionally off-key) choruses; accomplished beatboxing, and goofball humor that saw his classic single, Just A Friend, become a crossover hit, reaching No 9 on the Billboard 100 in 1990, the only platinum-selling hit of Markie’s career.

In later years, Markie‘s sense of bonhomie made him an in-demand artist for features, lending his inimitable vocals to the Beastie Boys’ Biz Vs The Nuge from 1992’s Check Your Head and their live cover of Elton John’s Bennie & The Jets (released on their 1999 anthology, The Sounds Of Science); The Avalanches’ The Noisy Eater, from 2016’s Wildfower; and De La Soul’s Stone Age from 1993’s Buhloone Mindstate, among many others.

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