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Biz Markie

Biz Markie

Rap singer

Old Schooler

Produced Summertime Jams

Lost Landmark Court Decision

Selected discography

Sources

Since his debut in the mid-1980s, Biz Markie has consistently provided comic relief to a music scene dominated by gangsta poses and street realism, rapping about sitting on the toilet while his colleagues dropped rhymes about guns. Im the class clown of the rap business, he told DJ Times. Rap is one big class, full of different students with different opinions. But Im definitely the only one doing what Im doing. Indeed, the Biz could practically teach the class when it comes to danceable goofery; his self-deprecating, playful persona has won him a sizable following and diverse career opportunities. Biz is a beloved but anomalous figure in rap, observed Robert Christgau in the Village Voice. Bumbling, spaced-out, not hard, not sexy, not cool, his albums have been patchy with great moments. Nonetheless, the rapper has attracted perhaps his greatest mainstream attention because of a lawsuit he lost involving a sampled bit of music taken from an old pop record.

Before he became the Biz, The Diabolical One, also known as The Clown Prince of Rap, was born Marcel Hall, in 1964 in Harlem, New York. He grew up a prankster-misfit, preparing a cake liberally dosed with laxative for the vice-principal of his Long Island high school. Ignored outright by the girls at school, he quietly kept score and would reply to those who had dissed him years later with the single What Goes Around Comes Around. For the short term, though, he contented himself with hijacking his classmates school lunchesYou cough on their food and say Look, I coughed on it. I know you dont want that now, right? he recalled in the Source and enjoying the burgeoning rap scene from the periphery.

Old Schooler

Biz Markie came of age during the peak of what would come to be called Old School rap, which emerged in New York City nightclubs as DJs developed the practice of scratching with two turntables, and MCs delivered party-oriented raps. The celebratory air of this period would permeate his own work, regardless of the various trends that came to dominate hip-hop in the 1980s and 90s. I was an old schooler, he told DJ Times, and I used to rock back in the days at house parties and stuff in Long Island. Then it started getting sort of monotonous, so I went to Manhattan and tried to make a breakthroughand I did.

He took on the name Biz Markie and sharpened his DJ skills at clubs like the Roxy and the Fun House; yet even as he displayed mastery of the turntables, he felt uncertain as an MC. He served as a human beatbox for other rappersproviding drum sounds with his mouth;

For the Record

Born Marcel Hall, April 8, 1964, in New York, NY.

Worked as DJ in New York City-area clubs, c. 1980s; recorded single Def Fresh Crew, Pop Art, 1985; signed with Prism label, 1986, and released EP Make the Music ; released first album, Biz Markie Goin Off, Cold Chillin/ Warner Bros., 1988; formed Biz Markie Productions, c. 1990.

Awards: Gold record for The Biz Never Sleeps and platinum record for single Just a Friend, both 1989.

Addresses: Record company Cold Chillin Records & Video, Inc., 1995 Broadway, Ste. 1800, New York, NY 10023.

this skill would put him in good stead later on. Ultimately, his confidence grew to a level that enabled him to seek out a successful rap producer: Marlon Williams, known on the scene as Marley Marl. When I felt that I was good enough, I went to Marley Marls house and sat on his stoop every day until he noticed me, and thats how I got my start.

Marl helped Markie record demo tapes and oversaw his 1985 single Def Fresh Crew, which featured up-and-comer Roxanne Shanté and appeared on the Pop Art label. The rapper was soon signed to Prism Records and over the next couple of years recorded several additional singles, notably Make the Music and 1987s Just Rhymin With Biz, a duet with his friend and future superstar Big Daddy Kane. Kane also wrote the rhyme that would fuel Markies splashy 1988 hit Pickin Boogers. That ditty quickly established the rapper as a fresh, comic presence in the increasingly serious and often militant world of rap. The year also saw the release of the debut album Biz Markie GoinOff. Prism, meanwhile, had changed its name to Cold Chillin and become part of Warner Bros. Havelock Nelson and Michael Gonzales, in their hip-hop guidebook Bring the Noise, noted Goin Offs jaunty celebrations of [Markies] vocal gift. It includes the ability to thud like a kick drum or chatter like a hambone, and the performer calls his arsenal of eccentric human noises The Inhuman Orchestra (!!). The singles Vapors and Something for the Radio also fared well.

Produced Summertime Jams

1989s The Biz Never Sleeps went gold, and the single Just a Friend went platinum. The albums title derived in part from Markies desire to assure listeners that he would be as effective as his own producer as he had been as a performer. I wasnt sleeping, he insisted to Word Up!, but people were sleeping on me. They thought I was gonna come out wack because I did this record myself. I didnt. For Darren Ressler of DJ Times, Just a Friend and the companion single Spring Again constituted easily two of 1990s best summer-time jams. As the Biz himself told Ressler, Those are the best songs. I dont know about anyone else, but my best stuff is when I talk about myself.

And the self he revealed was a far cry from the threatening boasts and political augury of his peers. Bring the Noise authors Nelson and Gonzales placed him in the context of Black comedians from Redd Foxx to Richard Pryor (during Pryors early years), explaining, What these funny-men did was take everyday occurrences and make jokes about them. The scatology of Foxx, Pryor and such acolytes as Eddie Murphy, the authors continued, echoes in the bodily-function comedy of Bizs most outrageous recordings.

Biz Markies next move was to create his own cartoon television series, Mouth Man, in 1990though the program eventually stalled in the planning stagesand establish a production company, Biz Markie Productions, with his own studio. He seemed poised for ever-increasing success when he released his 1991 album / Need a Haircut. In fact, the disc received generally good reviews Hip-Hop Connection praised it as dope, while Black Radio Exclusive called it super-hype, adding, All Markie fans will love this oneand surged initially on the strength of the popular What Goes Around Comes Around and the bathroom serenade T.S.R. (Toilet Stool Rap).

Lost Landmark Court Decision

But a musical snippet, or sample, that appeared on the cut Alone Again was borrowed from a 1972 pop hit of the same title by British vocalist Gilbert OSullivan and was used without OSullivans permission. A lawsuit followedthe litigation monitored closely by the music business as it was the first to address the legality of the widespread practice of samplingand Biz Markie lost; federal judge Kevin Duffy ordered sales of / Need a Haircut stopped. Attorney Lawrence A. Stanley, analyzing the case for the Source, opined that Markies legal team failed to launch an even remotely credible defense. In any event, the rapper received more mainstream publicity for this setback than for any of his previous successes. He was especially dismayed by OSullivans suit because, as he told the Source, I loved that song since I was a little kid.

The matter was concluded, Markie proved as irrepressible as his sense of humor; by spring of 1993 he had a new album out, archly titled All Samples Cleared, and soon the disco-influenced single Let Me Turn You Onon which the rapper actually sangbegan climbing the charts. The Source predicted that Markies limited crooning ability would not hinder the songs progress, asserting, True, hes no Luther Vandross, but that wont stop him from rocking every family reunion, pool party and ghetto BBQ this summer. The magazine found Samples overall more fat and funky than a pile of Old-School elephant shit baking in the sun, declaring that Markie manages to capture the essence of that good ole hip-hop funk while continuing to lock down the hearts and tapedecks of music lovers worldwide. Billboard observed of the effort, Markie has hardcore fun using bugged-out metaphors, off-key singing, pig Latin, human beatboxing, old- and new-school rhyme patterns, and silly-corny-gross jokes. He packs all that into tracks stacked with taunting breaks and insinuating grooves. And though Details contributor Mike Rubin expressed some reservations about Samples, he found the rappers loose storytelling and self-deprecating wit a welcome relief from gangsta raps drive-by posturing.

In addition to the new album, 1993 saw Markie take on the challenge of acting, in Robert Townsends film Meteor Man and in a Townsend television series. He also kept up his DJ skills at the Muse nightclub in New York City. From all indicationshis defeat in court notwithstandingMarkie appeared poised to moderate hardcores dour attitude with his playful raps for the foreseeable future. As he told DJ Times, he wasnt cut out for hip-hop activism: No matter how many records you make about self-destruction, people are going to do it anyway. Im just here to entertain and make people happy.

Selected discography

Singles

Def Fresh Crew, Pop Art, 1985.

Make the Music, Prism, 1986.

Nobody Beats the Biz, Prism, 1986.

(With Big Daddy Kane) Just Rhymin With Biz, Prism, 1987.

Pickin Boogers, Cold Chillin/Warner Bros., 1988.

Vapors, Cold Chillin/Warner Bros., 1988.

Something for the Radio, Cold Chillin/Warner Bros, 1988.

Albums

Biz Markie Goin Off, Cold Chillin/Warner Bros., 1988.

The Biz Never Sleeps (includes Just a Friend and Spring Again), Cold Chillin/Warner Bros., 1989.

I Need a Haircut (includes What Goes Around Comes Around, T.S.R. (Toilet Stool Rap), and Alone Again), Cold Chillin/Warner Bros., 1991.

All Samples Cleared (includes Let Me Turn You On), Cold Chillin/Warner Bros., 1993.

Sources

Books

Nelson, Havelock, and Michael Gonzales, Bring the Noise: A Guide to Rap Music and Hip-Hop Culture, Harmony Books, 1991.

Periodicals

Billboard, July 3, 1993.

Black Radio Exclusive, September 20, 1991.

Details, August 1993.

DJ Times, December 1991.

Hip-Hop Connection, October 1991.

Musician, April 1990.

New American, September 19, 1991.

Newsweek, January 6, 1992.

Reflex, January 1992.

Source, June 1993; July 1993; August 1993.

Spin, February 1992.

Streetsound, November 1991.

Village Voice, January 21, 1992.

Word Up!, May 1992.

Additional information for this profile was obtained from Cold Chillin publicity materials, 1991-1993.

Simon Glickman

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