Biz Markie, who fortified the humor-and-hijinks school of hip-hop by taking it worldwide with his 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” died Friday at the age of 57, his representative said.
“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,” said Jenni D. Izumi, CEO of Biz Markie, Inc., in an emailed statement.
The rapper had been ill, and in late June Izumi had asked for “thoughts and prayers” about his condition after it was falsely reported in June that he had died.
On Friday, Izumi said, “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.”
Markie, whose real name was Marcel Theo Hall, spent his early years in Harlem but moved to Long Island and, by the time he was a teen, was rapping and beat-boxing, a way of making percussive sounds through vocal and breath work.
He adopted his emcee name because, he later said, he admired pioneering rapper Busy Bee Starski, and initially called himself Bizzy B Markie, using his nickname, Markie.
He later shortened the name and made his 1985 hip-hop debut as a beat-boxer for Roxanne Shante of the Juice Crew, already big names in the emerging rap world.
Markie’s first hit, “Make the Music With Your Mouth,” in 1987, was an ode to beat-boxing.
But it was “Just a Friend,” which sampled Freddie Scott’s “(You) Got What I Need,” which launched Biz Markie to global hip-hop fame and inspired MTV to call him “the clown prince of hip-hop.”
Its chorus sang the universal tune of two-timing: “You, you got what I need but you say he’s just a friend/And you say he’s just a friend, oh baby.”
Markie, whose real name was Marcel Theo Hall, is survived by his wife, many family members and “close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter,” Izumi.