One must weigh a person’s character, actions, and individual ways to truly define who they are. The things that define a person are the things that a person is remembered by. How does someone define Biz Markie? I define him as one of the coolest rappers you could ever meet, with a sense of humor and warmth that is hard to forget or replicate.
My first encounter with Biz was one a true hip-hop fan would consider mythical. It was at a park jam in Queens Bridge Houses Park, with the Juice Crew performing and Marley Marl as the DJ and orchestrator of everything. At that moment, I was happy for Juice Crew member Craig-G, as he just released a song called “Shout Rap” and performed it as well as a song called “Transformer.” Roxanne Shante, as usual, commanded respect with her skills.
The surprise that night was someone nobody knew. My initial reaction was, “Who is this?” And it was answered when Biz Markie told the crowd that he’s not the Human Beat Box from The Fat Boys and did a perfect impression of the group’s sonic supplier, Buffie The Human Beat Box. He then said he’s not Doug E. Fresh and did a perfect impression of Doug E. Finally, he said he’s “The Human Orchestra” Biz Markie and beat boxed while harmonizing a rhythm. I never saw anything like that at that time. I don’t think anyone in the audience had. Suffice to say, he caught the attention of everyone.
After that set, MC Shan gave an electrifying performance that is still one of the greatest I’ve ever seen…and then the jam was over. On the way out of the park, those in attendance had a lot to talk about and Biz Markie was part of the conversation. The next day Biz was still in the projects, chilling and socializing and it got to a point where seeing him in Queens Bridge was not a surprise.
He once said on a song, “Wherever I lay my hat is my home.” He laid his hat in Queens Bridge, Long Island, Harlem, New Jersey, Brooklyn to name a few. In the late ’80s/early ’90s, people stayed in their native neighborhoods in New York City. It was dangerous in the streets, but Biz Markie was different. People who weren’t from Brooklyn didn’t necessarily want to go to Brooklyn, because Brooklyn was the stickup kid Mecca of the five boroughs. But on any given day at Albee Square Mall, you could see Biz Markie chillin’ like he’s from Brooklyn. On any given day you could go to Harlem and see Biz near Mart 125 chilling like he was from Harlem. And on any given day you could see Biz at the Coliseum in Jamaica, Queens (especially at Shirt Kings).
He was down to earth in every sense of the word and had a personality people gravitated toward, which helped him transition into film as well. But what really impressed me about Biz was his knowledge of hip-hop and respect for the culture, and of course, his talent, which went beyond performing. Biz had a sharp ear for beats and production, which many people didn’t know. He was also a great DJ. When someone has a skill, sometimes the skill is greater than the person. This is not one of those cases. (Did I mention his sneaker collection would tame a hype beast?)
Some aspire to be a great person in their field, but to aspire to be loved like he was outside of his field would be a true achievement. I’ve never heard any rapper have something bad to say about Biz Markie. Ever. That alone makes him rare.
We will miss the stage presence, the wit, the precision, but we are blessed to be able to listen to music and see videos with him in it. His family and close friends are the ones I sympathize with the most because his presence in their lives will forever be missed, so to them, we must give sincere condolences and respect. Remember life is a fleeting moment in the grand scheme of time and inevitably all will turn to vapors, but nobody beats the Biz.
Cory “Cormega” McKay is an accomplished rapper and original member of Nas’ The Firm super group. Cormega helped blaze a trail for others in the independent production market after being signed to Def Jam Records in the ’90s.