‘Clown Prince of Hip-Hop’ Biz Markie Dead at 57

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Biz Markie, the rapper best known for his iconic wail over the ’80s classic “Just a Friend,” died at the tragically young age of 57.

Markie’s manager, Jenni Izumi, confirmed he died on Friday in a statement sent to USA Today. “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. We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time,” the statement read.

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“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. He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter.”

Markie, born Marcel Theo Hall, had suffered from Type 2 diabetes. He was hospitalized for several weeks in July 2020 due to complications from the disease, and began suffering medical issues earlier this month, which led to incorrect reports of his death to circulate. At the time, his family had said that he was “under medical care, surrounded by professionals who are working hard to provide the best health care possible.”

Markie’s 1989 platinum-selling, top 10 hit, “Just A Friend,” became a pop culture staple throughout the decades. Whether it’s commercials, TV shows, movies, it’s practically impossible not to have heard that piano melody at least once. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly reflecting on the song’s 30th anniversary, he explained that the song was rooted in real life experiences.

“I was talking to this girl – the first girl I ever talked to. And every time I would call out to California, a dude would pick up and hand her the phone. I’d be like, ‘Yo, what’s up (with him)?’ She’d say, ‘Oh, he’s just a friend. He’s nobody.’ And I came out there a week early just to surprise her, and she’s tongue kissing somebody — and I caught her! So instead of me fighting, I put the pain into the pen and wrote it out.”

In addition to his musical career, Markie did voiceover work in shows like Spongebob Squarepants, made guest appearances in the children’s television show Yo Gabba Gabba!, and hosted a daytime show on SiriusXM’s LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells Radio channel.

He was truly one of those guys that brought a smile to your face anytime you saw him in something. He brought a goofy, delightful energy to whatever he touched, truly earning his title as the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop.” He will be missed.