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‘Just a Friend’ Rapper Biz Markie Dead at 57, Mario, LL Cool J, Taraji P. Henson, and More Offer Fond Memories of Their Beatbox Pioneer Friend

Biz Markie, the rapper and entertainer who beatboxed his way into worldwide fame, has died at age 57.

Born Marcel Theo Hall, Biz Markie rose to success after the release of his 1989 hit “Just a Friend,” which reached the No. 9 spot on the Billboard charts in 1990.

Biz Markie has died at 57. (Photo: @officialbizmarkie/Instagram)

Biz began his decades-long career in hip-hop as a member of the Juice Crew and went solo with the release of his 1988 debut album “Goin’ Off.” The debut received some buzz, however, it was his sophomore 1989 album, “The Biz Never Sleeps,” which delivered the record that would make him an international superstar. He went on to release three more studio albums, with his last being 2003’s “Weekend Warrior.”

Throughout his career, Markie’s congenial, larger-than-life personality allowed him to expand his entertainment career to include a variety of TV and film appearances, including “Men In Black II,” “Black-ish,” and “Yo Gabba Gabba.”

Markie’s death was confirmed by his manager Jenni D. Izumi on July 16. Although his cause of death remained unspecified, the artist had reportedly been battling illness for months. He was reportedly hospitalized for weeks in 2020 for a severe illness related to Type 2 diabetes and suffered a stroke while in a diabetic coma as well.

“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,” reads a statement from Markie’s rep. “We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time.

“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,” it continued. “He leaves behind a wife, many family members, and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes, and frequent banter. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one.”

Black celebrities have already begun posting an outpouring of condolences and reflections on moments shared with the late artist. Taraji P. Henson, Questlove, Missy Elliott, and LL Cool J are among those that were touched by Biz’s exuberant personality.

“Damn who is going to play #gogo for me at the parties now. YOU WILL BE MISSED,” expressed Henson. “YOUR LEGACY WILL LIVE ON FOREVER. #ripbizmarkie YOU WERE MORE THAN JUST A FRIEND to so many 💔💔💔🕊”

(L-R) Biz Markie and Taraji P. Henson. @tarajiphension/Instagram

“I can remember so many times trying to beat box like you until my lips was sore& whenever we saw each other your energy was always so full of Life/Love/& Good Vibes,” Missy reminisced. “Your impact in the culture Is 4EVER & you will NEVER be Forgotten Rest king @BizMarkie.”

Biz Markie and Missy Elliott. @missyelliott/Twitter

“I owe so much to your legacy BIZ,” wrote Mario, who sampled the late rapper’s hit song for his debut single, “Just a Friend 2002.” “You were always Optimistic and full of energy no matter what was going on. We will miss you but continue to celebrate you!!”

Mario (left) and Biz Markie (right). @marioworldwide/Instagram

LL Cool J and Questlove, both of whom had friendships with Markie from the beginnings of their careers, shared lengthy personal stories of the impact he had on their lives and careers.

“We have so many memories, man,” LL said in an impassioned video clip. “You was in the basement of my grandmother’s house when I wrote ‘Rock the Bells.’ We used to always hang out back in the days, running around Queens, Long Island, and I’m glad we got to do what we got to do towards the end. Some of the things we got to do,” he said, referring to their Sirius XM radio show, while trying to hold back tears.

Questlove )left) and Biz Markie (right). @questlove/Instagram

Questlove credited Markie with helping to shape him into the man and artist the he has become: “Biz built me man. In my early early stages it was Biz who taught me the REAL places to cop records….Biz taught me what cities had good digging…..Biz taught me where to collect 45s……Biz taught me where to collect 8TRACK TAPES!!….”

He goes on to praise Biz for being “one in a million” and promises that he’s “using ALL the education he taught me.”

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