Biz Markie, The ‘Clown Prince of Hip-Hop,’ Passes Away at 57

Image: Mike Pont/WireImage

It is with great sadness that Marcel Hall, better known as Biz Markie, has passed away Friday in Baltimore.

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,” his rep Jenni Izumi said in a statement.

His passing follows a string of other health-related deaths ranging from Shock G to Prince Markie Dee to DMX.

“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. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one.”

According to earlier reports stemming from an ill-timed rumor of Markie’s passing, Markie had been suffering from complications due to diabetes. Last year, Okayplayer reported that he had suffered a stroke while in a diabetic coma and was placed in a rehab facility in the DMV area. 

The rapper, singer and actor behind the 1989 smash hit “Just A Friend,” off of his second album, The Biz Never Sleeps, was a perennial favorite in major hip-hop circles. The song interpolated Freddie Scott’s “You Got What I Need” and matched with the Harlem-born, Long Island-raised MC’s narrative-driven rap style. 

An innovative yet proudly goofy rapper, his raspy, off-kilter singing voice made him a star, while videos for “Just a Friend,” “Vapors,” and “Spring Again” detailed his penchant for telling stories in a humorous way. “Usually when I make a record I know what the potential is going to be, but I didn’t know that ‘Just a Friend’ was going to be that big,” Markie said to Rolling Stone in 2013. “‘Just a Friend’ opened a world up where I never knew the difference between being a pop star and a regular rap star. It was crazy.”

He built his name up performing in night clubs and colleges, eventually becoming a member of Marley Marl’s famed Juice Crew, which included Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shanté, and Kool G. Rap. One of the culture’s most visible practitioners of beatboxing, “Goin’ Off,” released on Cold Chillin’ in 1988, helped him to break into the top 100 of the Billboard album chart. His third album, 1991’s I Need a Haircut, found Markie at the center of one of hip-hop’s most storied battles over copyright law and sampling when Gilbert O’Sullivan sued the rapper for sampling his song “Alone Again (Naturally)” without permission.

The case went to trial, with the judge ruling against Markie, and threatening to bring a criminal case against him. The matter was never taken that way, but the determination changed the way hip-hop producers approached sampling going forward.

Markie made it into a clever tongue-in-cheek reference with the title of his 1993 album, All Samples Cleared.

Despite his recording output dropping later in the Bling Era of the late ‘90s, Markie continued to be a star and purveyor of the culture. He transitioned into film and television roles, most notably as a rapping alien in Men in Black II (2002), and on the beloved children’s television show Yo Gabba Gabba. Markie appeared on Keenen Ivory WayansIn Living Color in 1994, performed as an announcer on the animated series Crank Yankers, and as a voice actor on popular shows such as SpongeBob SquarePants and AdventureTime.

Most recently, he appeared on Nick Cannon’s Wild ‘n Out, Empire, and Black-ish as himself. 

Prior to his health complications, Markie was in production on the film Chaaw, which is set for release in May 2022.

Condolences have begun to pour in from the hip-hop community. 

Here at EBONY, we offer our sincerest condolences to the Hall family, friends, and fans who will surely miss the great and legendary Biz.

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