Beastie Boys and Biz Markie were both New York hip-hop pioneers, so it’s natural they spent a lot of time together. The two artists often shared a stage, including a 1988 Madison Square Garden show where Biz performed an inimitable version of Elton John’s “Bennie and The Jets.” (That version later ended up on the Beasties’ Sounds of Science anthology.) As Rob Sheffield notes in his tribute to the rapper, who died Friday night at age 57, Biz even gave the Beasties the name for their label and magazine, Grand Royal. “I did not expect the Biz to be as Biz-like as he was,” Adam Horowitz said in the Beastie Boys Book. “You better have the tape running when the Biz is around. He’s an all-freestyle, off-the-dome kind of artist.”
Following Biz’s death, Mike D of the Beasties paid tribute to his longtime friend.
We are so grateful to have had so many unforgettable experiences with the truly unique and ridiculously talented Biz Markie. We will miss his presence deeply in so many ways. In the Nineties, Biz would often show up at our G Son studio in Atwater, CA. Naturally every visit would start with a trip to the candy store — which in this case was actually a liquor store across the street. Regardless, he would always return happy with a brown paper bag full of treats. Once he had his sugar fix, he would typically grab a mic and sing whatever song he wanted, looking at us as if we’d know exactly what to play — and somehow he was usually right.
I’ll never forget the time he showed up with a stack of 45s to make a mixtape to listen to on his flight back to New York. Did this mix tape include famous break beats like The Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President” or Rufus Thomas “Funky Penguin” or any of the other classics that you might associate with Biz and his amazing human beatbox skills? Nope. He smiled ear to ear as he put on Helen Reddy‘s “I Am Woman” and sang along at top volume with his headphones on — so excited that he’d soon be able to do this all over again on his flight!
Biz was a completely unique musician. No one else could beatbox — making beats and grooves and sounds the way he did — when he came out. He didn’t play by the rules or observe any categories. If he loved something, he would play it or sample it or rap over it — or just DJ the song and have the audience sing along. He was all inclusive the way hip-hop can be at its best moments.
It’s also important to note that the Biz was not just a rapper or a record-maker, but a true entertainer. He could get on and rock a crowd whatever the circumstance — from his legendary early appearances at the Latin Quarter in New York City to the Tibetan Freedom Concert in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Once he was doing a DJ set opening up for us — just him, records, a mic and the audience singing along — and the power suddenly cut out. He didn’t miss a beat, human beatboxing and singing a cappella without amplification. He could not be stopped. Biz, we love you and we miss you and we are so grateful for everything we got to do together and make in the time we had. Much love always…