Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz: A Tribute to the Late Great Biz Markie

Autumn Simon

From Digital Underground’s Shock G to Ruff Ryder’s DMX, the hip-hop community had sadly taken some heavy hits in 2021. On July 16, one of rap’s most beloved figures, Biz Markie, died at age 57. After facing a long battle with his health, the Harlem-born rapper passed away due to complications from Type 2 diabetes. Social media was flooded with premature death rumors a few weeks earlier, which left fellow rappers, friends and family of Biz Markie defending the rehabilitated artist. His rep, Jenni Izumi, grievously announced that “the artist peacefully passed away with his wife Tara by his side.”

Born Marcel Theo Hall, Biz Markie started his rap career in the birthplace of hip-hop. Growing up in Brentwood, Long Island, a young Marcel was “busy getting in trouble” and used his past delinquencies as inspiration for his stage name “ Biz Markie.” In the early 80s, New York underground basement rap sessions were complemented by the sounds of Biz’s beatboxing. Never heard before by his crew of rappers, Rakim, Chill and DJ Belal, the sound left the group both impressed and confused. A natural-born hard worker, Biz used his connections and earned a spot as the beatboxer for Roxanne Shante and The Juice Crew. He made his debut on her single “The Def Fresh Crew” as the Inhuman Orchestra.

He caught the attention of Marley Mal by performing in the DJ’s hallway in Queensbridge. The two then went on to collaborate for Biz’s 1988 first solo album, Goin’ Off. Regarded as one of the best debut albums of all time Goin’ Off is fastened with several celebrated hits like “Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz,” “Pickin’ Boogers” and “Vapors.” Each track featured beats that were mainly produced by Biz but credited as Marley Mal’s. This album also marketed Biz Markie as both a rapper and beatboxer.

While Goin’ Off was iconic, Biz Markie’s career took a definitive turn when he released The Biz Never Sleeps. In 1989, he dropped his melodic version of Freddie Scott’s “ (You) Got What I Need.” The track told the sorrowful story of Biz’s woman woes and went on to be the most successful single of his career. “Just a Friend” is still plastered into pop culture and has received several awards including, the #9 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

Attempting to top his own success, Biz Markie dropped his third studio album, Need a Haircut. Unfortunately, this album is clouded with infamy as it singlehandedly changed the hip-hop industry forever. The 12th track from this project, “Alone Again” featured an unauthorized sample from Gilbert O’Sullivan. Recycling beats is a large part of hip-hop and production, and Biz was not the first artist who used other creator’s sounds. The system used him as an example for other rappers who attempted this unnecessarily punishable crime. Biz and his label, Cold Chillin’/Warner Bros. was served a lawsuit and participated in the transformative Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc., case.

Ultimately, the judge ruled that all samples must be approved by the original artist before being used. The court granted an injunction against the defendants and pulled the album from circulation, thus preventing its sales. The sample clearing process proved that hip-hop was gaining profitable popularity and other genres wanted a piece of the pie. After this case, fees were becoming higher, and sampled artists went on to request outlandish amounts of profits including, 100% of royalties. To clap back at the nearly career-ending case, Biz went on to release All Samples Cleared! This fourth studio album, however, tanked due to the publicity of the court case.

Though Biz Markie’s rap career took a hit, the multitalented artist went on to the silver screen. His first film appearance was in Robert Townsend’s Meteor Man. He also starred in several television shows including In Living Color, Fastlane and more. You might even remember the legendary beatbox scene from Men in Black II, which featured Biz portraying an alien. Jumping generational fame, he even earned a spot on the Nick Jr. series Yo Gabba Gabba! He participated in short segments called “Biz’s Beat of the Day,” where he would captivate the young audience with his beatboxing skills. Later in life, he also made guest appearances on Spongebob Squarepants, Black-ish and Adventure Time.

Biz Markie went on to charmed the world for nearly 30 years due to his musical and comedic talent. Biz Marke was able to separate himself from the golden era of hip-hop, by being the most accessible artist in music. From rhyming and producing to dancing and acting, Biz Markie had it all! Perhaps the most accomplished artist of all time, Biz Markie’s chameleon-like gifts allowed him to innovate new things in hip-hop that are seen today. For example, his ability to double as both a producer and artist influenced the likes of RZA, Dr. Dre, Kanye West and Pharrell. The hip-hop pioneer also had a “Mother Goose” approach to rap, breaking down his lyrics with captivating storytelling skills and music video parodies. He gave the world his heart and soul through tracks like “Picking Boogers,” “What Goes Around Come Around” and “Just a Friend.” Biz Markie changed the game by bringing the fun element back to hip-hop while pushing the culture to new heights. Rest in Peace, Biz Markie!