Biz Markie, the charismatic rapper whose infectious 1989 single “Just a Friend” became a pop culture classic, has died, his manager confirmed in a statement. Markie, whose real name is Marcel Theo Hall, 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,” the statement said.
“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,” the statement added. “He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter.”
Rumors circulated online that Markie had died in early July, but the rapper’s family released a statement refuting the news. “Biz is still under medical care, surrounded by professionals who are working hard to provide the best healthcare possible,” the family said at the time.
Markie had a history of health issues. Last year, he was hospitalized in Maryland and treated for complications that are a part of his history with Type II diabetes. In 2014, Markie said he had to lose over 150 pounds to improve his health, BET reported. Type II diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Markie, who was often called the “clown prince of hip hop,” is best known for his iconic 1989 single “Just a Friend,” which became a top 40 song in several countries. The single, which samples the 1968 Freddie Scott tune “(You) Got What I Need,” was certified platinum in 1990.
Born in Harlem on April 8, 1964, Markie grew up on Long Island and graduated from Longwood High School in 1982. He said that his nickname was inspired by the first hip-hop tape he heard as a boy.
“It was ’77, ’78, from the L Brothers. Grand Wizard Theodore was the DJ, and the rappers was Kevvy Kev, Master Rob and Busy Bee Starski. I loved Busy Bee. Busy Bee just stuck with me,” he told The Washington Post in 2019. “My name used to be Bizzy B Markie, and after a while I put the Biz with the Markie. My nickname in my neighborhood was Markie.”
Markie launched his music career in New York City but later moved to Maryland after gaining fame on the college circuit in the Washington, D.C., area.
His third studio album, “I Need A Haircut,” did poorly in circulation after Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Markie for using an uncleared sample of his song “Alone Again (Naturally).” Following the lawsuit, Markie moved to television and film appearances throughout the 2000s, including portraying a beatboxing alien in “Men in Black II” and himself in “Empire.”
Besides his acting and composing, Markie also loved collecting unique clothes, toys and shoes. In addition to Beanie Babies, he told The Washington Post in 2019 he had “the Six Million Dollar Man, paralympic Barbie, ‘Welcome Back, Kotter’ dolls, the Fonz action figure, the Munsters,” and every Barbie ever made.
He also said that people would “always sing” his iconic hit single to him when they saw him in public.
“The weirdest thing about my fame is that when I’m thinking that it’s almost over it just sparks back up,” he told the Post. “I made ‘Just a Friend’ in ’89. Some people’s records die — it sprouts up. Now it’s 30 years later and it’s sprouted up again in commercials. They’re not letting me die. The public, the fans, they like me around.”
“I’m going to be Biz Markie until I die,” he said. “Even after I die I’m going to be Biz Markie.”