Biz Markie, Rapper And "Unsung Hero" in Hip Hop, Dead at 57

Musician and comedian Biz Markie, best known for his 1989 hit "Just a Friend," has passed away, his spokesperson told E! News. He was diagnosed with diabetes in 2011, according to ABC News.

By Lindsay Weinberg Jul 17, 2021 12:53 AMTags

The hip hop community just lost a friend. 

Biz Markie, the rapper behind the 1989 hit "Just a Friend," died at age 57 on Friday, July 16, E! News confirms. 

"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 spokesperson told E! News in a statement on July 16.

"We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time," the statement went on. "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 is survived by his wife of over 15 years, as well as his family members and close friends, "who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter," per his rep. "We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one."

A family source told TMZ that Biz died at a hospital in Baltimore, Md., following complications with diabetes. 

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He has been under medical care for weeks. False reports circulated in early July that Biz had died, but his manager, Jenni Izumi, told Newsweek that he was still receiving care. "Biz's wife and family are touched by the outpouring of love and admiration from his friends, peers and fans alike," the manager said in an email on July 2, while asking for "continued thoughts and prayers."

Biz was diagnosed with type two diabetes in 2011, which inspired him to successfully lose 140 pounds within three years, according to ABC News.

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"I wanted to live," he said in 2014. "Since I have to be a diabetic, If I didn't make the changes, it was going to make the diabetes worse. I'm trying to get off [the Diabetes meds]. The way you gotta do it is lose the weight. I'm off half my meds, I just got to get off the rest."

The Harlem native was born in 1964 as Marcel Theo Hall and released his debut album, Goin' Off, in 1988.

He later explained why he took on the stage name "Biz," telling The Washington Post in 2019, "My name, Biz, comes from the first hip-hop tape I heard. It was '77, '78, from the L Brothers. Grand Wizard Theodore was the DJ, and the rappers was Kevvy Kev, Master Rob and Busy Bee Starski. I loved Busy Bee. Busy Bee just stuck with me. My name used to be Bizzy B Markie, and after a while I put the Biz with the Markie. My nickname in my neighborhood was Markie."

He remarked, "I'm going to be Biz Markie until I die. Even after I die I'm going to be Biz Markie."

The DJ was included in "VH1's 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs," per Stereogum, and dropped his most recent studio album, Weekend Warrior, in 2003.

David Corio/Redferns

He crossed paths with the movie biz as well, acting in Men in Black II in 2002 and contributing to episodes of Black-ishSpongeBob SquarePants, Adventure TimeSingle Ladies and Empire

Biz will be remembered as the "clown prince of hip-hop," and as he told The Post, "I'm one of them unsung heroes. It's like, I'm part of hip-hop, but sometimes I'm forgotten about in hip-hop."

The artist reflected, "It's beautiful because it means all eyes ain't on me, so when I do pop up they appreciate everything they see. It's like the McRib sandwich. It's like the flowers outside that turn white on the bushes. It comes around when it's getting ready to be springtime. You appreciate it."