Biz Markie Dies at 57

Q-Tip, A-Trak, and more have paid tribute to the "Just a Friend" MC
Biz Markie Dies at 57
Biz Markie — the American rapper, singer, beatboxer, DJ, producer and actor known best for his 1989 single "Just a Friend" — has died. Representatives for the artist confirmed his passing this evening, though a cause of death was not revealed. He was 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," representatives said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly.

"We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time," the statement continued. "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. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one."

While an official cause of death was not stated, TMZ reports that the artist born Marcel Theo Hall died of "complications from diabetes that he's been fighting for more than a year." Markie was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010, and was hospitalized last year due to health complications.

This past April, friend and collaborator Big Daddy Kane told The Breakfast Club that Markie was recovering from a stroke. "He's in rehabilitation now. He's getting better and stronger every day," Kane said at the time. "Last time I talked to him on the phone, he got a real light voice, but last time I talked on the phone. He stuck his middle finger up at me, so I think he's coming along."

Earlier this month, rumours of Markie's death flooded social media, leading management to confirm the artist was alive in medical care.

Born in Manhattan and raised on Long Island, Markie was first active in his native New York's hip-hop scene as a beatboxer. He notably appears in 1986 cult music documentary Big Fun in the Big Town, alongside fellow NY luminaries MC Shan, Run-D.M.C., Doug E. Fresh, LL Cool J and Grandmaster Flash.

Markie made his solo debut with 1988's Goin' Off. The Marley Marl-produced LP featured his beatbox talents on "Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz," along with successful singles "Nobody Beats the Biz," "Vapors," and "Pickin' Boogers."

In 1989, Markie would follow his debut with sophomore album The Biz Never Sleeps, which spawned the humorous hit "Just a Friend." Interpolating Freddie Scott's 1968 song "You Got What I Need," Markie's most successful single finds him chronicling frustration with a woman romantically involved with another man, who she claims is "just a friend."

Markie's third album, 1991's I Need a Haircut, would launch a legal case that would alter the landscape of hip-hop and the process of sample clearance. The album's "Alone Again" samples several bars of piano-playing heard on Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)," while Markie interpolated that song's chorus in singing his own.

This led O'Sullivan to sue Markie and Warner Bros. His legal victory led I Need a Haircut to be pulled from circulation, while labels then had to clear samples with their original creators before releasing the records. Markie would respond in 1993 through titling his fourth LP All Samples Cleared!, while also appearing on its cover as both a judge and defendant.

The '90s would see Markie work extensively with Beastie Boys, appearing on the group's 1992 album Check Your Head, as well as on 1994's Ill Communication and 1998's Hello Nasty. 

"We loved the Biz, and thought it would be so cool to hang out with him, and make something weird together," the group's Ad-Rock writes of their first team-up in 2018's Beastie Boys Book, ahead of sharing memories of their studio hangs:

[Biz] came by the studio a couple more times, and we would hang out, eat together, play basketball (Biz playing sports is a spectacle), and make music. We'd be playing our instruments, and he'd just shout out random songs for us to play so he could sing them. " the Beatles, 'Yesterday.'" We don't know how to play that. "Yo...Seals and Croft." Seriously, what? It was great that he assumed that since we were "musicians"...obviously we'd know how to play Captain and Tenille's "Love Will Keep Us Together." It was like this weird dream of being able to perform his seven-year-old AM radio greatest hits.

Markie would release final studio LP Weekend Warrior in 2003, and would continue touring as a DJ. His television and film credits include appearances on In Living ColorMen In Black II, Yo Gabba Gabba!SpongeBob SquarepantsBlack-ishAdventure Time and Empire, while further musical collaborations came with Will Smith, Len, the Avalanches, Ke$ha and the Flaming Lips.

Find tributes to Markie below from Q-Tip, El-P, A-Trak, Hatebreed's Jamey Jasta, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea and more.