Biz Markie Dies: ‘Just A Friend’ Rapper And Actor Was 57

Biz Markie Dies: ‘Just A Friend’ Rapper And Actor Was 57

July 17, 2021

Biz Markie, the rapper whose classic Just A Friend was a major hit in 1989 and has since been sampled in countless songs and videos, has died. He passed in a Baltimore hospital from complications of diabetes at age 57.

TMZ broke the story of his death, but weeks before, a flurry of reports prematurely told of his passing. Those were dispelled by his manager, but it was acknowledged that he had been in ill health for some time.

A statement from his representatives confirmed the death. “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.

Born in Harlem, NY in 1964 as Marcel Theo Hall, he adopted the stage name Biz Markie and began his career in New York City nightclubs, expanding to colleges.

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During his career, he worked as a rapper, singer, DJ, record producer, actor, comedian, and writer. His debut album, Goin’ Off, came out in 1988, led by the single, Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz.

His second studio album followed in 1989. The Biz Never Sleeps featured Just A Friend, a lament on woman problems which featured him rapping and mournfully singing about a girlfriend. It rose to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

His third album, I Need A Haircut, was tarred by a lawsuit from songwriter Gilbert O’Sullivan, who claimed Markie used a sample of his hit song, Alone Again (Naturally), without permission. It proved to be a landmark court case, and led to the album being pulled from circulation by Warner Bros. The expense provided a cruel lesson to the heretofore wild west of sampling, underlining the need to get permission from the copyright holders before using music from other artists.

Biz Markie’s career was hurt by the lost momentum, and his fourth album, titled All Samples Cleared!, did not do particularly well. However, he was established in the rap pantheon by his earlier work, and collaborated on several albums by other artists, most notably the Beastie Boys, including their groundbreaking Check Your Head in 1992.

Turning to acting, Biz Markie made appearances on the In Living Color tv show and in the film Men in Black II. He also appeared in the TV series Fastlane, Kung Faux, Celebrity Fit Club, The Andy Milonakis Show, Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘n Out, and on the Nick Jr. show Yo Gabba Gabba!

Markie opened the show on Chris Rock’s No Apologies tour in 2008, spinning other artists but closing the show with his own major hit. He also surfaced in a Radio Shack commercial, repeating the line “Oh, Snap! Guess what I saw” from his Just A Friend.

Later in his career, he guest-starred on the SpongeBob SquarePants episode Kenny The Cat, and did voice acting work on an episode of the animated Adventure Time.

In 2014, he appeared in Sharknado 2: The Second One, and surfaced in 2016 on the Fox TV series Empire, performing (once again) Just A Friend. He was also on the ABC TV series Black-ish in 2017.

His career was capped by hosting a radio show on SiriusxM every weekday.

He is survived by his wife, Tara Hall. No memorial plans have been announced.

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