Biz Markie, whose unforgettable out-of-tune singing on “Just a Friend” highlighted the playful side of rap, has died at age 57. Via The New York Times:
But Biz Markie soon outpaced his peers commercially, becoming a pop sensation with the unlikely 1989 smash “Just a Friend,” from “The Biz Never Sleeps,” which was released by Cold Chillin’ and Warner Bros. Over a plunked piano beat, borrowing its melody from the 1968 song “(You) Got What I Need,” recorded by Freddie Scott and written by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, Biz Markie raps an extended tale about being unlucky in love.
But it was his pained, rough-edged singing on the song’s chorus — along with the “yo’ mama” jokes and the Mozart costume he wore in the music video — that made the song indelible: “Oh, baaaaby, you/You got what I neeeeeed/But you say he’s just a friend/But you say he’s just a friend.”
Writing in The New York Times, the critic Kelefa Sanneh called Biz Markie “the father of modern bad singing” and wrote, “His bellowed plea — wildly out of tune, and totally unforgettable — sounded like something concocted after a day of romantic disappointments and a night of heavy drinking.”
When it came out, “Just a Friend” was an instant hit:
Younger folks may also know Biz from Yo Gabba Gabba, where he taught a new generation about his mad beatboxing skills:
Image: Jeff Moore / Retna Pictures / Avalon