The latest death to rock the hip-hop community is that of legendary rapper and producer Biz Markie, who passed away on Friday (July 16) following a lengthy bout with Type 2 diabetes. He was 57 years old.
Born Marcel Theo Hall in Harlem, New York, Markie, who was raised in Long Island, New York, built a reputation by performing at nightclubs in and around New York City. His unorthdox style caught the attention of producer and Juice Crew co-founder Marley Marl. Marl would induct Markie into the Juice Crew as a member himself, initially working as a beatboxer for Roxanne Shanté prior to breaking out on his own with early hits like “Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz (featuring TJ Swan)” and “Nobody Beats the Biz” securing him a deal with Cold Chillin’ Records.
From there, Markie released his seminal debut album, Goin’ Off, in 1988, which included street bangers like “Something for the Radio” and the hit single “Vapors.” Earning the nickname the “The Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” for his light-hearted, humorous brand of lyrical content, Markie would reach his pinnacle as a rap star the following year with the release of The Biz Never Sleeps, which includes the crossover single, “Just A Friend,” which peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the biggest song of his career.
Despite hitting a snag after finding himself embroiled in a copyright infringement case when musician Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Markie, claiming that the album cut “Alone Again” featured an unauthorized sample from his hit “Alone Again (Naturally).” O’Sullivan’s claim was upheld with the case Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc. In 1993, two years later, Markie returned with the aptly titled album All Samples Cleared!
Releasing his last studio album, Weekend Warrior, in 2003, Markie transitioned into a successful DJ, host, and actor, rocking parties around the world as a celebrity DJ and appearing in films such as Men In Black II, and on television on the children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba!
Responsible for some of the greatest and most impactful rap hits of his time, Markie’s music helped inspire other artists to follow his lead, with rappers like The Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, and R&B singers Mary J. Blige and Mya having sampled his music over years. This has made his legacy and time in hip-hop even more significant, with Markie connected to countless hit records and cultural anthems that wouldn’t exist in the same manner without his contributions to the culture.
In light of his passing and in acknowledgment of his legacy VIBE compiled a list of 30 classic rap and R&B songs that wouldn’t exist without Biz Markie’s genius.
Diamond D serves up a rollicking soundscape with a vocal sample lifted from the Biz Markie hit “Vapors” for Lord Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth’s titular single from Finesse’s debut album.
Biz Markie’s shout-out to fellow Juice Crew member Kool G Rap on “The Do Do” gets used as an introduction prior to the Genius of Rap’s standout showing on this groundbreaking conceptual salvo.
3. “No Vaseline” by Ice Cube (1991)
Among the 16 samples included on Ice Cube’s historic diss track targeting his former group, N.W.A., is “Vapors,” which producer Sir Jinx chops down to size.
4. “‘Cause That’s the Way You’re Livin’ When You’re in Living Color” by Heavy D & the Boyz (1991)
For the introductory theme song for the third season of the iconic sketch comedy show In Living Color, producer Eddie Eddie crafts a backdrop built around the timeless drum loops from Biz Markie’s “This Is Something For The Radio.”
5. “You Remind Me” by Mary J. Blige (1992)
Marley Marl’s drums from Markie’s “Biz Dance Part 1” get reworked by Dave “Jam” Hall for this hit from Mary J. Blige’s debut album, What’s the 411?, which peaked atop the Hot R&B Single chart.
6. “For Pete’s Sake” by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1992)
Biz Markie’s “The Doo Doo” gets picked apart for this gem from Pete and C.L.’s masterpiece, “Mecca and the Soul Brother.”
7. “Changes I’ve Been Going Through” by Mary J. Blige (1992)
This ditty from Mary J. Blige’s ’92 debut, What’s the 411? finds producers Cory Rooney, Prince Markie Dee, and Puff Daddy sampling elements from “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz” a cut from Markie’s debut album, Goin’ Off. The track was also one of the first instances of an artist sampling one of Biz’s records.
8. “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit” by Wu-Tang Clan (1993)
The Wu-Tang Clan introduced their “Tiger Style” to the world with this cut from the Staten Island crew’s debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers. Produced by RZA, who lifts drums from Markie’s 1987 cut “Nobody Beats the Biz,” which features an appearance from pioneering rap-crooner T.J. Swan and was released as part of the Long Island rep’s Goin’ Off album.
9. “Suspended Animation” by KMD (1993)
Rap group KMD gleans inspiration from “Things Get A Little Easier” off Biz’s 1989 release, The Biz Never Sleeps, for their Black Bastards album.
10. “Breakadawn” by De La Soul (1993)
De La Soul begins their 1993 single from the Buhloone Mindstate album with a double-dip in Biz Markie’s catalog, reciting his signature “A One Two” ad-lib.
11. “Escape” by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1994)
Pete Rock rocks the house with a loop of Biz Markie’s shout-outs from his 1991 track, “Take It To The Top,” from the I Need a Haircut album.
12. “It Ain’t Hard to Tell (Remix)” by Nas (1994)
Large Professor was the first to unearth this vocal sample from “Nobody Beats The Biz,” gifting Nas with a track that continues to keep giving throughout his career.
13. “Things Done Changed” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1994)
If you listen closely to the beginning of this introductory tune from The Notorious B.I.G.’s debut album, Ready to Die, you’ll peep a subtle vocal sample of Biz Markie’s “Vapors.”
14. “Get It Together” by Beastie Boys feat. Q-Tip (1994)
“A one two, like my name was Biz Mark,” Q-Tip spits on this joint effort from the Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication album, which includes a sample from Biz’s 1986 release, “A One Two.”
15. “I Got a Love” by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth (1994)
Pete Rock scratches up bits from “Cool V’s Tribute to Scratching,” Goin’ Off‘s tribute to Biz Markie’s DJ, for this highlight from he and C.L. Smooth’s album The Main Ingredient.
16. “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da Park)” by Nas (1994)
Biz Markie’s “Picking Boogers” is the crux upon which this acclaimed cut from Nas’ Illmatic is built upon, as DJ Premier uses a chopped up vocal sample from the Goin’ Off fan-favorite as part of the song’s hook.
17. “I Love You (Remix)” by Mary J. Blige feat. Smif-N-Wessun (1994)
A piano riff found on Biz Markie’s “Make The Music With Your Mouth Biz” was also used by Chucky Thompson and Puff Daddy for the original version of this highlight from Mary J. Blige’s My Life, as well as its Smif-N-Wessun-assisted remix.
18. “Cold Rock a Party” by MC Lyte (1996)
Vocals from Biz Markie’s 1988 release, “The Do Do” from Goin’ Off, help comprise the foundation of MC Lyte’s bad-as-I-wanna-be cut, “Cold Rock a Party.”
19. “What’s Beef?” by The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)
The Notorious B.I.G. channels the spirit of Biz Markie yet again on this Life After Death track, which finds the late Brooklyn don reworking a couplet from Markie’s 1988 cut, “Biz Is Goin’ Off.”
20. “Young G’s” by Puff Daddy feat. The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Kelly Price (1997)
The Notorious B.I.G. shows love to Biz Markie by playing on lyrics from Biz’s Goin’ Off single, “Vapors” on his closing verse from Puff Daddy’s 1997 debut album, No Way Out.
21. “Nas Is Like” by Nas (1999)
DJ Premier takes a vocal clip from “Nobody Beats the Biz” for this classic cut from Nas, who draws from Biz’s catalog yet again for the creation of this timeless jam.
22. “Best of Me, Pt. 2” by Mýa feat. Jay-Z (2000)
Trackmasters and Precision do work with elements from “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz” for Mya’s collaboration with Jay-Z from the Backstage OST. Hov even doubles down on the nod to Biz, beginning his opening verse with an interpolation from “Nobody Beats The Biz” featuring T.J. Swan.
23. “Mighty Healthy” by Ghostface Killah (2000)
“Nobody Beats The Biz” gets a facelift by Mathematics on this gem from Ghostface Killah’s Supreme Clientele album.
24. “Girls, Girls, Girls” by Jay-Z feat. Q-Tip, Slick Rick, and Biz Markie (2001)
When Jay-Z paid homage to his rap forefathers by selecting a handful of vets to appear on the Blueprint standout, the Brooklynite hit up Biz, whose presence on the record fell right in line with Hov’s vivid and playful storytelling on the song.
25. “Ghost Showers” by Ghostface Killah feat. Madame Majestic (2001)
Ghostface Killah rips apart a track sampling Biz’s “Something For The Radio” on “Ghost Showers,” the Chris Liggio-produced lead single from GFK’s Bulletproof Wallets.
26. “2nd Childhood” by Nas (2001)
After chopping up vocals from “Nobody Beats the Biz” for “Nas Is Like” two years prior, DJ Premier revisits the classic sample for this strong deep-cut from Nas’ Stillmatic album.
27. “Just A Friend” by Mario (2002)
Mario hooked up with producer Warryn Campbell for this remake of Biz’s signature hit, with an interpolation of the song’s lyrics laid over an upbeat track. The lead single from Mario’s self-titled debut album, “Just A Friend” helped the singer score a breakthrough record while also introducing the genius of Biz Markie to a new generation.
28. “Best Friend” by 50 Cent (2005)
50 Cent borrowed some lyrics from “Just A Friend” for this smash from Fif’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’ soundtrack, reaching the Top 10 on the Hot Rap Songs chart.
29. “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles)” by Jazmine Sullivan (2010)
Missy Elliot and Cainon Lamb blessed Jazmine Sullivan with this heater from the vocalist’s 2010 album, Love Me Back, which treads familiar territory with drums borrowed from “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz.”
Oak and Pop Wansel became the latest producers to draw from the well of Biz Markie and T.J. Swan’s “Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz” for Elle Varner’s collaborative single with J. Cole, from her 2011 album, Perfectly Imperfect.