By Daniel Paiz
Nobody Beats The Biz, not now and not ever; unfortunately the originator of that phrase, Biz Markie, passed away on July 16th. Known to loved ones offstage as Marcel Theo Hall, the energetic, one of a kind artist passed away from health issues related to diabetes. Often referred to as the “Just a Friend” rapper, Biz’s career was so much more than that. This guy had movie appearances, a guest segment on a kid’s TV show, a SiriusXM radio show, and songs that showed his versatility, playfulness, and wit.
Many tributes focus on a few brief moments in his expansive career. Let’s change that narrative over here. A few tracks that you might have forgotten about or skipped will highlight just how important this one of one human being is to the world of Hip-Hop and music in general.
Make the Music with your Mouth, Biz
The opening eight bars of music likely establishes a head nod or dance move you won’t stop over the course of the five minutes and four seconds of this song. If you were to say this song mixes “Ike’s Mood” from Isaac Hayes (1970) with “Impeach the President” from The Honey Drippers (1973), you would be right. Personally I don’t hear the Steam sample, but they’re also listed as sampled on this track. In a sense, Marley Marl was creating a mashup of sorts before they were really called that.
Imagine combining serious, somewhat somber tunes together for a playful, happy-go-lucky sounding person like Biz Markie. Combining beatbox sounds with these samples? The Long Island creative from the jump left his mark. Before we as listeners even get to the end of the song, we have to decide what we’re listening to first: the beats or the lyrics. Now that’s nothing new, BUT: Markie draws you in with both.
Beatboxing and rapping are both skill sets that require some amount of technical ability. Each draw in a listener differently. So for me, getting them almost simultaneously led to hitting repeat more than I would for a rapper that only raps. This verse in particular has me appreciating Biz’s delivery:
I’m tellin you a fact, it’s just like it is
Even moms, pops, and cops say, “Whattup, Biz?”
Everywhere I go, I always rocked the boat
Gonna end this rhyme, with this one note
Not gonna act conceited and say I’m the best
But I’m guaranteed to pass any kind of test
I say def rhymes, with funky fresh lyrics
When I do the beat the party people go into HYSTERICS!-Biz Markie, verse 3 of “Make the Music with your Mouth, Biz”
You can definitely tell the Marley Marl influence in this song. Supposedly Marl only wrote lyrics for the first five songs for the Goin’ Off album, but it wouldn’t be surprising if this was co-written by him too. Regardless, Markie flexes his lyrical dexterity, compacting syllables while also humbly bragging. Not a lot of rappers can pull off the humble brag, and land the feeling that Biz is being genuine here.
While this section isn’t meant to be a Will Smith appreciation post, Smith is another guy that doesn’t get as many flowers as he probably should. Sure, he is a rapper that kind of arrived slightly behind when he would’ve lyrically gotten more props and less hate; however, he still impacts artists to this day. Any who, the creator of Willenium did a good job of highlighting Old School acts that still had it (and have it still) at this time. “So Fresh” is definitely a highlight of two fairly different artists that both have instantly recognizable voices: Biz Markie, and the always highly anticipated Slick Rick.
Each verse highlights each rapper’s style and delivery. While I could discuss each verse in detail, I’m going to keep it to my favorite four bars from Biz Markie’s section:
To all those other emcees that be tryin’ to get the info
Forget the rest cause I’m the best, and I’m a nympho-
Maniac, insaniac, I’ll put you in a trance and-Biz Markie, featured on Will Smith’s “So Fresh”
A bit of a different verse than the previous one above. To be fair, this verse is from 1999 and near the end of Biz’s run of making new music; the previous track is from his start around 1987. It kind of feels like a nostalgia track meant to both highlight these two but also bid them farewell due to the changing musical landscape. Despite including the “nymphomaniac” part, the playfulness shines through.
Other tracks such as “Spring Again”, “This is Something for the Radio”, and “Gooey Gangsta” are all high on my list of very replayable Biz tracks. Despite how Biz is marketed as a one-hit wonder, many tracks exist out there for you to discover and enjoy. There’s stuff for both kids and adults too, something that doesn’t happen for a lot of rappers.
Send bouquets while people can still smell them
Have you ever knew that someone was a one of one edition, someone that you really appreciated or enjoyed? Head to the (proverbial) flower shop right now. Send those cards, those petals, those kind words you have about that artist/creative/human being immediately. Do no delay, because if you do, you might regret it.
Biz Markie will never be duplicated. He’s definitely someone I wished I could’ve at least met, if not also interviewed here on Cypher Sessions. Luckily, he’s left us an impressive catalog that goes far beyond being just a friend.