Biz Markie, hip-hop pioneer, is dead at 57

The rapper/DJ had reportedly been in failing health due to diabetes since April 2020.

Biz Markie, the jovial rapper, DJ and beatboxer dubbed as the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop,” has died at age 57. A family source confirmed the news to TMZ.

Biz had been hospitalized due to complications of diabetes since July 2020, as previously reported by theGrio. It was reported by theGrio later that he had gone into a diabetic coma in December and suffered a stroke.

Hip-hop icon Biz Markie is still alive, despite reports from REVOLT Wednesday that the 57-year-old had passed away. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

Premature reports of his death hit social media and hip-hop blogs the night of June 30. However, theGrio reported that Biz’s family made an official statement that he had still been alive, although he was receiving medical treatment and was surrounded by his family.

Biz was one of the most unique figures in the history of hip-hop culture. By incorporating humor in rap, he distinguished himself as a standout MC, thanks to his ubiquitous 1989 hit, “Just A Friend,” and classics like “Vapors,” “Nobody Beats The Biz” and “Pickin’ Boogers.”

As part of the infamous rap collective, The Juice Crew, Biz Markie collaborated and mentored hip-hop innovators Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shante, MC Shan, producer Marley Marl and radio DJ Mister Magic. He was one of the pioneers of beatboxing, along with contemporaries Doug E. Fresh and Darren “Buff Love” Robinson of The Fat Boys. Songs like “Make Music With Your Mouth, Biz,” and his legendary a cappella duet with Shante, “Def Fresh Crew,” have been watershed moments in hip-hop’s golden age.

Biz was born Marcel Theo Hall in Harlem, New York on April 4, 1964. He lived with his parents in the Colonial Projects before moving to Patchogue, Long Island at age 10. Hall said his father, Royal Hall, was a jazz saxophonist who played with John Coltrane and Sonny Stitt.

It was during his time growing up in Long Island that Biz Markie began his lifelong record collecting, paving the way for his future work as a DJ. He learned the music business passing out flyers for rap promoters Mike and Dave in New York City, as he said on Questlove Supreme podcast. He gained a reputation for his Don Rickles-style insult comedy rap battles.

Through his Juice Crew affiliation, Markie got a record deal with Cold Chillin’ Records and released his first two albums, 1988’s Goin’ Off and 1989’s The Biz Never Sleeps. Goin’ Off combined Biz Markie’s signature voice and pension for irreverent storytelling, co-written with Big Daddy Kane, and the signature boom-bap production of Marley Marl.

The Biz Never Sleeps, which Hall produced himself, featured his platinum-selling single “Just a Friend.” The song caught on to the pop audience thanks to Markie’s vivid storytelling of an unfaithful girlfriend and its hilarious video featuring Biz singing the notorious Freddie Scott interpolation “You got what I need…,” with Biz Markie playing piano donning a Mozart-style outfit.

Although he never repeated the crossover success of “Just a Friend,” Hall was able to extend his hot streak on Hip-Hop radio, releasing three consecutive Top 5 singles on the U.S. Rap charts in the early 1990s; “What Comes Around Goes Around,” “Let Me Turn You On” and “Young Girl Bluez.”

For the next two decades, Hall became a bona fide hip-hop ambassador, continuing to work as an in-demand DJ, and appearing on several TV shows and films, such as Fox’s In Living Color, MTV’s Wild-N-Out, Men In Black 2 and Nickelodeon’s Yo Gabba Gabba, with whom he toured the world with in the 2010s.

Hall had been struggling with his health for much of the second half of his life due to diabetes and being overweight. In 2014, he told ABC News that he had lost 140 lbs. in an attempt to live a healthier lifestyle to combat Type 2 Diabetes.

“I wanted to live,” Hall said. “Since I have to be a diabetic, If I didn’t make the changes, it was going to make the diabetes worse. I’m trying to get off [the Diabetes meds]. The way you gotta do it is lose the weight. I’m off half my meds, I just got to get off the rest.”

At the time of his hospitalization in 2020, Hall had been a radio DJ for LL Cool J‘s SiriusXM’s channel Rock the Bells Radio every weekday. Hall is survived by his wife, Tara Hall.

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