Biz Markie, Clown Prince of Hip-Hop, dies at 57

The world is mourning the loss of rap legend Biz Markie who passed away Friday at age 57 at a Baltimore hospital.

Biz Markie, Clown Prince of Hip-Hop, dies at 57
July 21
14:36 2021

By Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D.

The world is mourning the loss of rap legend Biz Markie who passed away Friday at age 57 at a Baltimore hospital. Lisa Respers France, senior writer for CNN, confirmed the hip-hop icon’s death.

Nicknamed the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop,” Biz Markie gained fame through his collaborations with Big Daddy Kane and Marley Marl. Born Marcel Theo Hall, the Harlem-born rapper burst onto the scene with his classic 1988 album “Goin’ Off,” which featured the hit songs, “Nobody Beats the Biz,” “Vapors,” and “Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz.” Biz Markie formed the legendary Juice Crew with Marley Marl and released the album on the Cold Chillin’ rap label under the guidance of legendary hip-hop DJ, DJ Mr. Magic. In a 2008 interview with Hip-Hop A3C, the rap legend stated, “When we did pick the Juice Crew, it was about people being different and dope in their own way.”

Always in on the joke, the beloved rapper created a persona of a happy-go-lucky jokester and kooky rapper with funny and clever lyrics and videos like “The Vapors” amid a sea of rap personas wrapped in machismo and conflict. Biz Markie’s collaborations gave hip-hop some of its most iconic hits. Biz followed up “Goin’ Off” with 1989’s “The Biz Never Sleeps” album which produced the iconic hit, “Just a Friend,” which went platinum. Biz Markie lamenting over a love interest openly cheating on her boyfriend while singing loudly and off-key was pop culture gold, catapulting the beloved rapper into the pop culture stratosphere. There was even a popular dance named “The Biz” and “The Biz Markie.”

The good times wouldn’t last forever. Biz Markie was sued for his follow-up 1991 album, “I Need a Haircut,” by musician Gilbert O’Sullivan, for sampling his 1972 hit song, “Alone Again,” on Biz’s song with the same name. In what would become a landmark case, O’Sullivan won the lawsuit, changing the way samples were licensed in rap music going forward. Biz Markie learned from the experience, naming his next album, “All Samples Cleared,” as a nod to the game-changing hip-hop in the process.

In 2009, Biz Markie appeared in a Radio Shack commercial parodying his smash hit, “Just a Friend.”

Over the years, Biz Markie continued to work as a producer and traveled the world as a DJ, DJing sets or parties for celebrities, many who were close friends like Will and Jada Pinkett Smith. In 1999, Biz Markie was featured on Will Smith’s song, “So Fresh,” along with rap legend Slick Rick, and appeared in the music video directed by Jada Pinkett Smith. Over the years, Biz Markie appeared on numerous television shows and films including “The Meteor Man,” “Men in Black II,” “Eve,” “Crank Yankers,” “Empire,” “Yo Gabba Gabba,” “Sharknado 2,” “Mad TV” and “Black-ish.”

In recent years, Biz Markie suffered from diabetes and had been hospitalized for the past few months following a stroke. In early July, it was reported and confirmed the hip-hop legend had been moved to hospice care, after false reports of his death surfaced online.

Hall is survived by his wife Tara Hall, who reportedly held his hand as the rapper transitioned. The “Clown Prince” is now the “Crown Prince of Hip-Hop.” Biz Markie was 57.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D, is NNPA Newswire’s culture and entertainment editor.

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