Biz Markie (Marcel Theo Hall) has reportedly died at the age of 57.
According to a Facebook post made by his brother, Diamond Shell, the rapper passed away on Friday (July 16).
“To the baddest in the beats icon legend … my brother BIZ MARKIE… I’LL miss you more than words ….” he wrote.
“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,” his rep Jenni Izumi said in a statement provided to Rolling Stone. “We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time.
Izumi added: “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. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one.”
The pioneering MC had been hospitalized since July 2020 after suffering from complications due to Type II diabetes. It isn’t clear at this time if that’s what caused his death.
His longtime friend and collaborator D-Nice posted on Instagram on July 26 that Biz Markie was in the hospital, and he wished him a speedy recovery. The post garnered thousands of comments from fans and celebrities alike, many of whom were learning about his health status for the first time.
“We are grateful for the concern from his fans and industry peers but respectfully request privacy for Biz and his family at this time,” Markie’s manager Jenni Izumi said after news of Biz’ hospitalization became widely known.
Biz made his Type II diabetes status public in 2014 and noted that the diagnosis prompted him to lose 140 pounds.
Known as the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” because of his humorous lyrics, Biz was a hip hop star at the dawn of the genre in the 1980s. Other rappers at the time coming out of New York included his Juice Crew colleagues Big Daddy Kane, Roxanne Shante, and Kool G Rap. All of them had their own particular styles, and they each took their careers to legendary levels.
Biz Markie’s 1989 hit “Just A Friend” showcased his singing/rapping/beatboxing abilities. The song playfully told the story of a young man trying to navigate a “situationship” on a college campus. The infectious hook, which sampled a 1960s song, became an instant classic. In the 1980s, when music videos were a major part of networks’ programming, the “Just A Friend” video even further popularized the song and Biz himself. It was even nominated for Best Rap Video at the MTV’s Video Music Awards that year. In 2016, Biz performed the song on an episode of the ABC hit series Empire and in 2017, he performed it again on Black-ish, which is a testament to the longevity of the track.
Biz’s other notable classics and fan favorites include “Nobody Beats the Biz,” “The Vapors,” and “Pickin’ Boogers.” His Beastie Boys collaboration on a cover of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets” is a genre-bending song beloved by many.
His gregarious nature allowed him to expand into television and film. Biz had a memorable role alongside Will Smith in Men in Black II as an alien whose language was beatboxing. He was on Season 1 of Celebrity Fit Club, a cast member on Nick Cannon’s popular show Wild n’ Out, and he had his own segment on Nick Jr’s Yo Gabba Gabba.
In addition to serving as Chris Rock’s opening act for his 2008 No Apologies tour, Biz also made appearances on numerous television programs and cartoons, including SpongeBob SquarePants, Hip Hop Squares, and Mad.
“When I make a record, I don’t just make it for one purpose—I do it for many different reasons. I don’t think I’ll be remembered for just one thing,” he said in a 2014 interview.
Biz Markie is survived by his wife, Tara.
Additional reporting by Paul Meara