US rapper Biz Markie dies aged 57: 'We're mourning a true son of Harlem tonight'

No cause of death was given for the rapper, whose real name was Marcel Hall

American rapper, DJ and producer Biz Markie, who shot to fame with his 1989 hit Just a Friend, died on Friday aged 57, according to media reports.

In a statement to US media, his representatives said he died with his wife by his side.

"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," representative Jenni Izumi said.

No cause of death was given for the rapper, whose real name was Marcel Hall, but he had experienced health issues in recent years related to Type 2 diabetes, reports said.

Known for songs often featuring amusing lyrics, including Pickin' Boogers from his 1988 debut album Goin' Off, Let Go My Eggo and Chinese Food, the New York-born Markie earned the nickname the "Clown Prince of Hip-Hop."

With its famous off-key chorus, Just a Friend hit No 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and later was added to VH1's list of the 100 greatest hip-hop songs.

His death triggered an outpouring of tributes.

Quote
Biz Markie turned hip hop on its head and brought that New York sense of humour to audiences across the world. We're mourning a true son of Harlem tonight
Bill de Blasio, New York mayor

Fellow rapper Q-Tip – whose former group, A Tribe Called Quest, was at the vanguard of art-house hip-hop in the 1980s and 1990s – tweeted: "This one hurts baad... im gonna miss u so so many memories."

New York mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted his condolences, saying, "Biz Markie turned hip-humourhop on its head and brought that New York sense of humour to audiences across the world.

"We're mourning a true son of Harlem tonight."

Having started out as a beatboxer in his teens, according to reports, Markie later showed off his prodigious and pioneering skill in a memorable cameo as a beatboxing alien in the film Men in Black II starring Will Smith.

He also appeared on the small screen in recent years, as himself on popular TV shows black-ish and Empire and lending his voice to the cartoon Sponge Bob as well as being a recurring guest on children's show Yo Gabba Gabba!

More recently, he was known for his DJing, posting about appearances regularly on Twitter – including with several new rap stars such as Cordae.

Posts dropped off in mid-2020, when he was reportedly hospitalised.

His fame extended far beyond the US – where he once DJ'd at the White House Correspondents' Dinner – taking him to renowned venues around the world, including the Bataclan theatre in Paris.

Roots drummer Questlove said "Biz built me man" in a lengthy tribute on Instagram.

"This cat was one in a million."

Updated: July 26th 2021, 11:48 AM
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