Rapper Biz Markie has died this past Friday at 57-years-old. Marcel Theo Hall, better known to the world as Biz Markie, had a long career as a rapper, producer, and DJ. He was most recognized for his 1989 single, Just a friend.
Over the last decade, Biz Markie struggled with his health. In 2011, he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. By 2014, he had lost 140 pounds as he made changes to his diet. His cause of death was due to complications from his diabetes. He died in a Baltimore hospital.
“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 representative said in a statement. “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 was born in Harlem, New York. There he adopted the stage name Biz Markie. After that, he started playing shows at various clubs and some colleges.
With five albums through the 80s, 90s, and early 00s, Biz Markie created hit records and songs that spanned different eras in the world of hip hop. His biggest single, Just a friend, was the fifth track off his second album, The Biz Never Sleeps. The song was certified platinum with over 2 million sales and landed number nine on the U.S. charts.
Warner Bros. and the now-defunct record label Cold Chillin’ Records produced and distributed four out of the five studio albums. Biz Markie’s final solo record in 2010, Weekend Warrior, was under the independent label Tommy Boy Entertainment.
Biz Markie joined a collection of collaborative efforts for over 20 years. In 1996, he was featured on a Schoolhouse Rock! tribute album called Schoolhouse Rock! Rocks with rockers Chavez, The Lemonheads, and more. His last was an EP titled Radio Down! with the rock band The Aquabats.
Sales started to diminish for his music. A legal issue with Gilbert O’Sullivan, who accused Biz Markie of sampling his song Alone Again (Naturally) without permission, slowed his career. Then, the rapper eventually landed in other media with appearances in movies and TV shows. Most notably, he was a rapping alien in Men in Black II. He also voiced characters in cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants and Aventure Time. Occasionally, he would appear as himself like his guest star spot on Black-ish and Empire.
You can see his most popular music video below.
As he filmed it before his death, Biz Markie’s last appearance will be next year in the movie Chaaw. The film will be about the effect of injustice in America toward Black communities. It is the directorial debut of Eric Orr, who produced the upcoming documentary Mirroring Michael Jackson.
Biz Markie contributed to the soundtracks of hit TV shows, movies, and some video games. For recent references, he had written a song for an episode of the popular Apple TV+ series, Ted Lasso. Even without his hand in it, his music was featured in It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia, Empire, and the video game Saints Row IV. Last year Biz Markie started hosting a show on SiriusXM. He shared funny and insightful stories on Monday through Friday.
Biz Markie is survived by his wife Tara Hall and his children. The two were married for 15 years. No memorial plans have been announced.