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Biz Markie, Bombastic Rapper Behind ‘Just a Friend,’ Dies at 57

Biz Markie, the bombastic rapper behind the Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit “Just a Friend,” died at age 57 on Friday (July 16).

“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,” reads a statement from Markie’s rep. “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. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one.”

His cause of death is unclear, but the New York MC (born Marcel Theo Hall) was hospitalized in April 2020 because of diabetes complications and reportedly suffered a stroke while in a diabetic coma last year as well.

In 1988, Markie released his debut album, Goin’ Off, which peaked at No. 90 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and included his first Billboard hit, with “Make the Music With Your Mouth” peaking at No. 84 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 1987.

But Markie’s big breakthrough to the mainstream came with his sophomore album, 1989’s The Biz Never Sleeps, which included his one-and-only Hot 100 entry: “Just a Friend.”

His signature hit reached No. 5 on the Hot Rap Songs chart in December 1989 and then crossed over the next year, reaching its No. 9 peak in March 1990. The single’s success helped its parent album, The Biz Never Sleeps, crack the top 10 of the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, where it achieved a No. 9 best in late 1989.

After “Just a Friend,” Biz Markie landed three more top 10s on Hot Rap Songs: “What Comes Around Goes Around” (No. 4 in 1991), “Let Me Turn You On” (No. 7, 1993) and “Young Girl Bluez” (No. 4, 1993).

“Just a Friend” interpolates Freddie Scott’s 1968 song “(You) Got What I Need” and also inspired yet another song, Mario’s “Just a Friend 2002,” which reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 in 2002.

I Need a Haircut, released in 1991, was Biz’s third and final album to hit the Billboard 200 albums chart, following Goin’ Off and The Biz Never Sleeps.

In addition to music, Markie also acted in movies and television, becoming a fixture on the children’s TV series Yo Gabba Gabba! with his “Biz’s Beat of the Day” beatboxing segment.