Biz Markie, the pioneering rapper, producer, and beatboxer whose jovial goofiness, off-kilter creativity and innovative music made him a singular presence in hip-hop, died on Friday at the age of 57.
According to Variety, in a statement to the media, his representative Jenni Izumi said he died with his wife by his side.
It read, "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 continued, "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. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one."
He had been suffering from complications due to diabetes, as per TMZ. The outlet reported that Markie, born Marcel Theo Hall, died in a Baltimore hospital just before 6:30 pm local time.
The rapper spent several weeks in a hospital last summer. Representatives told the outlet at the time that he was being treated for a serious illness, but not coronavirus. At the time, it was reported that Markie's type II diabetes was a trigger for the hospitalization.
His condition then was unclear and rumours ran rampant, some indicating that he even fell into a coma, though others suggested that was not the case.
Markie was best known for his 1989 single 'Just a Friend', which appeared on an EP of the same name. The song's signature piano melody (interpolated from Freddie Scott's 'You Got What I Need') matched with Markie's narrative-driven rapping and raspy, off-kilter singing voice, making it a success, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It has since become a popular addition to film and TV soundtracks, appearing in the likes of 'Empire', 'Friends with Benefits' and more.
Born in Harlem in 1964, Markie grew up on Long Island before performing as a beatboxer as a member of Marley Marl's famed Juice Crew.
After the release of his 1991 album 'I Need a Haircut', Markie was hit with a huge lawsuit when singer-songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan claimed that the rapper sampled his song 'Alone Again (Naturally)' without permission. The judgment was ruled against Markie.
He has appeared as himself in a number of films and television shows. Markie was seen as a rapping alien in 'Men in Black II' and a man named Vinnie in 'Sharknado 2: The Second One', while also popping up on shows like 'Eve', 'Mad' and 'SpongeBob SquarePants'.