American Original: Interview with Biz Markie


Foreword by Cutso

Hip-Hop does not create renaissance men (or women) anymore. And we can’t really count rappers who have dropped TJ Maxx-bound clothing lines, flavored beverages (soft and hard), TV shows, shoe horns, whatever side-hustles many rappers have undertaken to over-saturate the market on all fronts. Biz Markie did not rely on any of that.

In a time when Hip-Hop was young and cutting-edge, and before it lost grip of its roots, Biz Markie was an all-out entertainer: a successful hit maker both over and underground, an active DJ, a well-schooled record collector, and a mic-soaking beatboxer. He supposedly has an absurd toy collection, as he claims in the Hip-Hop factoid book Ego Trip’s Big Book of Rap Lists. He was also the comic relief character of one of the greatest posses the rap game has ever known: The Juice Crew.

Who could forget his earth-shattering rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” (in which he donned a Hendrix-style dashiki, blowout wig and lefty white Stratocaster) to open the festivities at the Tibetan Freedom Concert? The best part about that particular performance was his inability to play a single note on the guitar. Rather, he substituted shredding for belting “raow raows” belligerently . In that performance, the Biz kept true to the principles of his ground-breaking single “Make The Music With Your Mouth“.

His rendition of Elton John’s classic “Benny and the Jets” (recorded with his chums the Beastie Boys) is also a fine cut of pure, raw, off-the-cuff entertainment. He manages to pull off a gut-busting performance, without knowing a majority of the song’s lyrics.

Nowadays, he moonlights as a venue-packing DJ, and preserves the art of beatboxing as a segment host on Nick Jr.’s children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba, where he teaches viewers how to make music with THEIR mouths.

As the Hip-Hop game awaits its next true all-around entertainer, the Biz stands alone in his own class. With Biz Markie, it is ALWAYS that kind of party. Keep a close watch on your mashed potatoes…

“Lemme Tell You A Story Of My Situation…”

What was the first hip-hop related thing you ever did Biz?
Beatboxing. I mean, I was a kid and that was just the first thing I took up when it came to hip-hop. I didn’t think about, I just sorta did it, ya know?

How was New York when you were just a young beatboxer?
It was so amazing. It wasn’t even a baby, more like a wild seven-year-old. It was a beautiful thing then.

How’d your life change when “Just A Friend” blew up?
Not much changed. I just became really, really popular overnight and got more money. But otherwise I was the same and not much changed. I’m always the same dude no matter what.

What do you think is your best album?
I can’t even tell you ‘cause they’re all different and significant in different ways.

How’d you end up hooking up with Prism records?
Tyrone Williams brought me over there.

Where were you when you found out about the whole court case over your sample usage?
I was driving in my car and they told me about it. Good thing is, I never even had to got o court! It was the record company’s thing.

Did you think it affected “ I Need A Haircut”, or your career for that matter?
I actually didn’t think it affected things much. I felt real talented then, and now too, so I would’ve just jumped into something else. I’m a survivor. Whatever I do, I’ll always provide and survive.

But the case affected hip-hop as a whole. Did you think it’d be that monumental?
I didn’t know then that it’d be that important. I just thought it was another court case. Sorta like if you got pulled over and got a traffic ticket or something [laughs]. I don’t even really think about it. I know it was important, but I have to only think about the future. I did that during the case and I still do that now.

When you look back, do you think you were a highly influential character?
Yeah. I think the way I did things were influential ‘cause it’s still reflected in people today. You know, the way people rap and have their pants sagging whatever. Many little things man. Maybe I didn’t invent these things, but I popularized it in many ways. I popularized a lot of things.

“Cause I Have Friends, And That’s A Fact”

What struck you when you met Marley Marl?
He knew how to make great records, plus he was on the radio. That right there caught my attention immediately.

Let’s talk about how you met members of the Juice Crew. How’d you meet Fly Ty Williams?
He aight. He was a manager and was real hard working in the beginning. But when the money came into play, he wasn’t as hardworking.

What about Shan?
I met MC Shan in a hallway randomly. My man Phil Rodriguez from Long Island brought me out to his cousin’s house and Shan lived right across the street. He said, “You I know this kid named Shan?’ I’ll introduce you to him.” And that’s how we met.

Are those stories true about you meeting Big Daddy Kane at a battle?
Yeah, I met Kane in Brooklyn and we rapped against each other. So after we met and battled, we got down because I used to get into all kinds of parties and stuff. So he’d eventually roll with me.

How’d you connect with Kool G Rap and DJ Polo?
I met G Rap through Polo. I met Polo from Marley’s house. That’s where everybody used to record and just kick it. So I ran into Polo at Marley’s and Polo introduced me to this cat named Kool G Rap.

What about Craig G?
When I met Craig, he was actually doing a record in Marley’s house. He was from Queensbridge, so he was another local kid from the way.

What about the younger members, like Tragedy?
I knew Tragedy since he was a little kid in Queensbridge.

Where did you meet Roxanne Shante?
I met Shante in a park.

Masta Ace?
I met Ace at Marley’s too.

How about TJ Swan?
He was my boy from Long Island and we got together to do stuff. I got him to sing with me.

And what about Cool V?
V’s my cousin. We knew each other since we were teenagers and he became a really dope DJ right before my eyes, so I had to get him onboard to whatever I was doing.

So Marley’s house linked everyone together?
Yeah, sort of. I met everyone at Marley’s house at different times. Plus we all to record there. Everything went through Marley. His house was the nucleus.

How about “The Bridge” rivalry? What’s your outlook on that now?
It isn’t as big of a deal as everyone made it out to be. I mean, we were friends with BDP and Scott La Rock. It wasn’t a big fight or anything. I mean, I had to give Chris props. We were friends, we were cool. I still look at Chris as one of the greatest. He was innovative but had a lot of heart too.

What was your main contribution to establishing Cold Chillin’?
Besides me being me, I was like a talent finder. I like to believe in people, so I put Kane on. I was always a team player and that’s probably my main contribution to Cold Chillin’.

What are your final thoughts on the Juice Crew?
There will never be another Juice Crew. Ever. But I’d say that the closest thing to Juice Crew would have to be Wu-Tang. I mean, like us, they had different rhyme styles, personalities and they all rhymed about different things.

“Oh Snap, Guess What I Saw…”

After doing TV shows and making guest appearances on other people’s records, would you consider making another rap album?
I have been thinking about it. I mean, I always have ideas, ya know? But I think that the way rap is going right now, my style might be a little too old.

What do you mean by “the way rap is going right now”. What’s your take on it?
Things are more catered to corporate now. You know, they’re just in it to make money. I mean, of course we all are, but it’s losing its art. It’s a sad thing man. At least to me.

Are there any artists you currently like?
I like them all as long as they’re keeping hip-hop alive and are being true. It’s hard to just say one artist. I know a lot of artists I don’t like though!

You’re busy it seems. What do you do on your off days?
I like to relax! I like to watch movies and I like to play records. I also like looking for breakbeats and stuff. I like doin’ whatever!

The last time most people saw you on TV was probably on Celebrity Fit Club a few years ago. How was the experience of being on a reality show?
It was weird! But only because I didn’t know any of the other celebrities on there. We were a bunch of strangers really. I mean, I had seen them all on TV before. But had to get to know them. We were honestly like a big family once we got to know each other.

Your history in the public, and music in general, is real unique comparatively speaking. What do you think is your place in pop culture?
How do I say this? Um, I don’t look at myself as just part of hip-hop. I look at myself as being sorta important at different times. I was always popular at school and that sorta carried over to my career. When I make a record, I don’t just make it for one purpose—I do it for many different reasons. I don’t think I’ll be remembered for just one thing, ya know?


Can you tell us some of your all time favorite rappers and producers?
My favorite rappers weren’t on records. So I can’t really say. I mean, I love Grand Master Flash, & Furious Five, Cold Crush, Crash Crew and Def Committee─ those are the people y’all would know. Other cats no one’s ever heard of ‘cause I saw them perform and they’d blow me away and I’d never see them again.

One last question: Are all those rumors true? Do you have the “Take Me To Mardi Gras” 12-inch without the bells?
The one with no bells? Yeah I got that! As you sit on the phone, hold on, I’ll get people who’ve heard it and have seen it, hold on…I could put Jazzy Jeff or Kenny Dope on the phone right now and they’ll tell you. Everybody wants to come to my house and look through my record collection and find it. Everyone thinks it’s a myth but it’s not.

[on hold, but still audible] Um…hold on…um…Kenny, wake up Kenny! Oh Kenny! Kenny wake up! [gets back on the phone] Ah, I can’t get anybody on the phone, but I promise, I got it.

Foreword by Cutso. Interview by David Ma.

Cutso is part of The Bangerz Crew and is also the official tour DJ of the Jabbawockeez. Check back to hear more and read more by Paolo “Cutso” Bello.

Biz painting by Michelle Spalding at

24 thoughts on “American Original: Interview with Biz Markie

  1. I have always loved the Biz,since the vapors. I remember Let me turn you on,where he is supposed to be singing. It was so bad it was funny. Biz is very unique,and he seems to be humble. I like him on YO Gabba Gabba,it is positive. My wife says that Biz Markie started the show and sold it to Nickelodean. Does anyone out there know for sure? Peace to all.


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