LOS ANGELES – Biz Markie, a hip-hop staple known for his beatboxing prowess, turntable mastery and the 1989 classic “Just a Friend,” has died. He was 57.
Markie’s representative, Jenni Izumi, said the rapper-DJ died peacefully Friday evening with his wife by his side. The cause of death has not been released.
“We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time,” Izumi said in a statement. “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.”
Markie, whose birth name was Marcel Theo Hall, became known within the rap genre realm as the self-proclaimed “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” for lighthearted lyrics and a humorous nature. He made music with the Beastie Boys, opened for Chris Rock’s comedy tour and was a sought-after DJ for countless star-studded events.
The New York-native’s music career began in 1985 as a beat boxer of the Juice Crew, a rap collective he helped Big Daddy Kane join. Three years later, he released his debut album “Goin’ Off,” which featured underground hits “Vapors” and “Pickin’ Boogers.”
Markie broke into mainstream music with his platinum-selling song “Just a Friend,” the lead single on his sophomore album “The Biz Never Sleeps.” The friend-zone anthem cracked Rolling Stone’s top 100 pop songs and made VH1’s list of 100 greatest hip-hop songs of all time.
Markie, who released five total studio albums, consistently booked more than 175 shows a year, according to the rapper’s website. He’s appeared on television shows including “In Living Color” and the 2002 movie “Men in Black II,” which had him playing an alien parody of himself in the film starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.
Markie also taught the method of beatboxing in an episode of the children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba!”