American rapper and pioneer of beatboxing Biz Markie died aged 57 on Friday (July 16). Dubbed the ‘Clown Prince of Hip Hop’ Biz Markie’s most celebrated work was his 1989 single ‘Just a Friend’. He was also known for songs like “Pickin’ Boogers” and “Chinese Food”.

Although the cause of his death was not immediately disclosed, Biz Markie was dealing with health issues related to Type-2 diabetes for the last few years.  

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“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,” the Hollywood Report quoted a representative as saying.

The Beginnings

Marcel Theo Hall, known by his stage name, Biz Markie was born at Manhattan in the Harlem neighbourhood. The hub of African American culture, the seeds of the Harlem Renaissance were implanted in Hall since the very beginnings.

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Mourning his demise, New York mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “Biz Markie turned hip hop on its head and brought that New York sense of humor to audiences across the world. We're mourning a true son of Harlem tonight.”

‘Just A Friend’

Biz Markie shot to fame with his song ‘Just A Friend’ in September 1989. The song was the lead single from his album, The Biz Never Sleeps. The song lyrics describe romantic frustration after pursuing a woman, who is actually romantically involved with another man, but calls him ‘just a friend’. The song had immense influence on American pop culture.

Pioneer of beatboxing

Biz Markie is credited for introducing the art of beatboxing to American popular music. The form of course is much older and made its presence felt in American music since the early 1900s. Beatboxing in hip hop originated in the 1990s.

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Man of many talents

Biz Markie’s contributions to American pop culture was not limited to his music. The rap legend also performed stand-up comedy and appeared in the hit Hollywood film Men in Black II alongside Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, playing an alien parody of himself.