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BIZ MARKIE, 1964-2021

Biz Markie, a hip-hop trailblazer long hailed as the "Clown Prince of Rap," has died. He was 57.

A cause of death has not been made public, but the rapper/producer, whose beatboxing was a glory to behold and whose playful rhymes gave him his own comedic lane, had suffered from Type 2 diabetes and was the subject of much recent speculation on the socials. He was hospitalized in April of 2020.

A statement from rep Jenni Izumi reads as follows:

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. 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 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.

Marcel Theo Hall was born in Harlem and raised on Long Island. He performed at clubs and colleges before establishing himself and dropping his debut set, Goin' Off, in 1988. It features the memorable cut "Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz," which showcased his beatboxing prowess. But it was "Just a Friend," on his sophomore album, The Biz Never Sleeps, that made his most powerful impression. His sampling of Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" on 1991's I Need a Haircut resulted in a lawsuit that led to a landmark legal decision requiring all samples to be cleared. This changed everything in hip-hop.

In the ensuing years, among various other activities, Biz guested on records by admirers The Beastie Boys, performed on the TV sketch show In Living Color, toured with Chris Rock, turned in cameos in films and co-hosted LL Cool J's Rock the Bells Radio on SiriusXM.

No one ever dared challenge his royal stature in the music and the culture. Biz Markie will always be the Clown Prince.

Photo: Bo Borbye Pedersen (Creative Commons license)

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