Born Marcel Hall in between Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland, Biz Markie stated making a name for himself in the 80s as a rapper and beat-boxer. But Biz became a household name in 1989 with the release of his second album, The Biz Never Sleeps. The song was his only entry to the US Pop charts, and made it to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100. Just A Friend helped Biz Markie crossover into immortality, for he was later labeled by VH1 as a one-hit-wonder on the basis of the success of this single.
In the early days of Hip-Hop, it was not unusual for the young artists to use a sample of the music they grew up hearing, and putting their own spin on the song. Biz Markie's Just A Friend was no exception, as Biz used Freddie Scott's 1968 song (You) Got What I Need to build his hit. The chorus from the song was 'borrowed' in chord structure and lyrics, although the rest was pure Biz Markie. Check out Scott's song below.
While he might be considered a one-hit-wonder, Just A Friend might have been his only trip on the Pop charts, but not his only time on the charts. He scored spots on the Billboard R&B chart, as well as the Rap chart. One of his first time on the charts was with his first single, Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz. It made it to #84 on the R&B chart, quite a fete for a young man just out of the gate. Here is a live performance of the 1987 debut, Make The Music With Your Mouth, Bizsung with another hit, Nobody Beats The Biz.
In 1988, Biz had another song on the charts with Vapors, which made it to #37 on the R&B chart. The song was trademark Biz Markie, with charm and a sense of humor.
Biz Markie is also well-known for changing the emerging culture of Hip-Hop in another way, one I am sure he is not quite as proud. After the release of his third album, I Need A Haircut, his record company, Warner Brothers Records, was sued for copyright infringement by singer/songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan for unauthorized use of a sample on his song Alone Again. When listening to the song, it is obvious Biz's song used the music for O'Sullivan's song as the basis for his song, and the court granted an injunction to prevent any further unauthorized samples. Hip-Hop had to change it up, no longer pulling samples without permission from the original writers. Frankly, although many still bemoan the findings of the court, it only seems fair to me that the original artists be in control of their own work. In all further pressings of the album, Alone Again was left off. Markie called his next album All Samples Cleared! to make a statement to the world. For more about Biz Markie, check out his official website here.