LOS ANGELES — Biz Markie, a hip-hop staple with Long Island roots, 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 was not 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, who was born Marcel Theo Hall in Manhattan and later moved to Patchogue, became known within the rap 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.
Markie began his music career in 1985 as a beatboxer 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."
In a 2016 Newsday interview, Kane remembered how after a friend from Central Islip told him how good Markie was and how they went to look for him at a downtown Brooklyn mall so Kane could challenge Markie to a rap battle.
Kane said after they found Markie and had the battle Markie told him, "You dope, man. We need to be a group. We should be together. . . . We can make a little money and one day we can make a record."
"Sure enough, he made a record and when he got established he came and got me," said Kane in 2016. "When we would do shows on Long Island, we would always end up there early and hang around in Coram or Brentwood to find someone to take us to the show and bring us back."
Markie came up the ranks playing house parties around the Island and competed in rap battles at the Brentwood Recreation Center.
Markie previously performed in 2014 at NYCB Theatre at Westbury, where the Live Nation Long Island Hall of Fame held its first induction ceremony. He was among several acts who performed that night including Rakim, Slick Rick, Doug E. Fresh, and Kane.
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 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!"
With Keldy Ortiz