music / News

‘Just a Friend’ Rap Legend Biz Markie Passes Away

July 16, 2021 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Biz Markie

Biz Markie, the legendary rapper who became a sensation in 1989 with his single “Just A Friend,” has passed away. Deadline reports that the rapper died in a Baltimore hospital from complications of diabetes. He was 57 years old.

Markie’s representatives confirmed his passing in a statement which read, “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.”

Biz Markie may be known to most for “Just A Friend,” which became a staple of radio play around the world and found a spot in pop culture consciousness. However, he had an extensive career beyond that which included five studio albums and multiple singles that charted on the US rap and R&B charts. Born Marcel Theo Hall, Markie grew up in Harlem and began his music career working New York City nightclubs. He appeared in the 1986 documentary Big Fun in the Big Town and released his debut album, Goin’ Off in 1988. That album featured several uyderground hits including “Nobody Beats the Biz” and “Vapors,” both of which charted on the R&B charts.

It was his second album, The Biz Never Sleeps, which launched him into stardom. “Just A Friend” was the first and only single from the album, and told the story of a man frustrated because he was pursing a woman who is seeing another man, who she says is “just a friend,” with a melody taken from Freddie Scott’s 1968 song “(You) Got What I Need.” The track was ranked among VH-1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop in 2008 and was certified platinum, as was its LP.

Markie became famous in part for his out of tune deliver of the chorus, and he noted in an interview that he was never supposed to sing that part, noting in 2019, “I asked people to sing the part, and nobody showed up at the studio. So I did it myself.”

Markie was also known to hip-hop aficionados for his collaborations with influential names like Roxanne Shanté, Marley Marl, and and Big Daddy Kane, releasing a Marl-produced EP Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz in 1986.

Markie’s attempt to capitalize on his “Just a Friend” success were complicated by a lawsuit triggered by the release of his third LP I Need a Haircut in 1991. The album saw Markie and his label sued by Gilbert O’Sullivan, who alleged that eight bars of his 1972 song “Alone Again (Naturally)” were sampled without permission on “Alone Again.” O’Sullivan was awarded $250,000 in damages and the album’s distribution was squashed. The lawsuit set a precedent for hip-hop regarding the need to gain approval for even small pieces of sampled music.

Markie would release a fourth album, All Samples Cleared!, in 1993 but his popularity had waned at that point. His fifth album, Weekend Warrior, came in 2003.

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends, and fans of Biz Markie. He will be missed.

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Biz Markie, Jeremy Thomas