Music News

Biz Markie

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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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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