Twenty-something viewers of typical VH1 programming -- the stuff in which desperate comics make wisecracks about pop-culture topics they only pretend to remember -- can be forgiven for assuming that Biz Markie was the William Hung of his era. After all, the Markie moment most often spotlighted is the 1989 video for the left-field hit "Just a Friend," in which Biz sits at a grand piano, a powdered wig atop his noggin, yowling the song's hook with the innate tunefulness of a hippo in heat. That's too bad, because while Markie can't be categorized as a major hip-hop figure, he's held in high esteem by some pretty impressive peers; his credits include discs by the Beastie Boys, Jay-Z, De La Soul, Prince Paul and many other notables. Markie remains a beat-boxer par excellence, and his spontaneous raps set a standard for surreality that wouldn't be topped until the rise of Ol' Dirty Bastard. As a historical footnote, he also helped establish the current approach to sampling compensation by losing a suit filed against him by Gilbert O'Sullivan, a shlockmeister unhappy not to be paid for Markie's use of the hideous ditty "Alone Again (Naturally)." Sounds like a VH1 item in the making.
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