Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Biz Markie - Just A Friend

By mixing comedy, fresh rhymes and cheesy singing, Biz Markie created some solid and fun rap during the late 1980's and early 1990's.  Biz (given name: Marcel Hall) came out of the Cold Chillin' Records scene in New York, where he became known for beat boxing and rapping.  He released his first album in 1988, but broke through with his sophomore (pun intended) effort, 1989's The Biz Never Sleeps.  That album features his one hit, "Just a Friend," which would go on to reach #9 on the main charts.  (To be fair, Markie did have 4 songs that broke the top 100 on the R&B charts, although none would climb higher than #80, except for "Just a Friend.")

The video for "Just a Friend" is pure rap comic genius, highlighted by Markie in full Mozart get up at the piano.  The visuals were unlike anything in rap at the time and helped the video move into heavy rotation on MTV for a while.

Unfortunately, Markie's success came back to bite him when he used Gilbert O'Sullivan's "Alone Again (Naturally)" as the basis for a song on his next album (1991's I Need a Haircut).  O'Sullivan sued Markie and won in a landmark ruling that helped create the precedent that samples had to be cleared by the original artist before they could be used.  I Need a Haircut was pulled from store shelves, and Markie's rap career never recovered.  I did love that Markie's 1993 album was titled All Samples Cleared, showing that the man never lost his sense of humor.

With his recording career on the outs, Markie transitioned to become a TV personality and commercial spokesman.  He continues to work in the industry to the present day.




As many readers will know (or suspect), the chorus for "Just a Friend" samples the 1968 Freddie Scott song, "(You) Got What I Need," included below.

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