Some rappers covet their gold chains and SUVs. Some rappers like their bitches on their knees. Some rappers spoil their guest spots on a song. And still others prefer to sing about thongs.
Some don't bother to sing at all. But of all no-voiced hip-hop MCs in the global urban populace-none are worse than Biz Markie.
The ballot is still out between Flavor Flav and Kriss Kross for worst fashion get-up, but Biz Markie takes the crown hands-down for worst, most dreadful, drunken, off-key, life-sucking yelp of a voice. Back in the day, Biz made it OK to sing off-key with "Just a Friend"-proving that he was miles ahead of any worst-voice competitors save for, say, dying cats.
And just as a no-talent Johnny Rotten inspired a generation of punks, who didn't give sloppy rap-warble a try after hearing that tune?
Drunken fratties were bustin' a move and elementary honies were humming the chorus about their third period math class crush. (How could he diss me like that? Aw snap.)
Taking his comic foil act and rap hollas from novelty act to irreverent celebration, Biz Markie was never a shining star in the profound, serious-artist department. Born Marcell Hall in the cupboards of Harlem in 1964, Biz earned a recording contract in the late '80s thanks to producer Marley Marl. The first man to successfully mix actual rapping talent with absurd lyrics and a Roseanne-caliber set of pipes, Biz made his name with songs like "Pickin' Boogers," and "Vapors."
But it was "Just a Friend" from 1989's The Biz Never Sleeps that launched him to playground-humming novelty. By 1991, Biz struggled to release I Need a Haircut and it was destined to sell poorly even before the courts butted in-he took flak from the chair for use of samples from Gilbert O'Sullivan's 1972 song "Alone Again (Naturally)." In the first case of its kind, Markie was found guilty of copyright infringement and the subsequent sample-cleared environment changed hip-hop forever.
True freestyle talent and rhyming street cred be damned, the silly sample-heavy hip-hop that Markie did record was valuable in its own way. While he originally took goofy juve-style humor to fond heights, the O'Sullivan court case permanently consigned his careening tunes to the '80s drop box and championed the rise of high-ridin' pimps, hos and gold chains era of rap that we all now endure.
The Diabolical Biz was dubbed the clown-prince of beatbox long before Flavor Flav decided to take himself seriously (VH1's I Love the '80s Strikes Back anyone?) and Markie will wave his old-school clout like a 40-foot flag long after Flav recognizes his own ridiculousness. Not that anyone in music or rap circles-except collaborator-peers The Beastie Boys -pays dividends to Biz for any kind of influence or pioneering glory.
But Biz deserves a lot more credit than he gets. The new-school clout will eventually fade and his old-school flavor will sustain-novelty tunes and potty humor or not.
While other rappers were out seducing the women with big-willie machismo, Markie made them swoon with laughs and rushed the door with the ladies chasing close behind. He's funnier than Weird Al and, sadly, much better looking. And since he invites you to laugh along, he makes it OK to enjoy this old-school brand of under-the-bridge 'hood rap. With the red-tinted Cadillacs, Puma kicks and Adidas sweats, rap in Markie's world is as far from the red-carpet glitz as you can get.
Biz was smart. He disappeared into the folds of DJing instead of dwelling on his lawsuit failures. Opening his most recent disc, Weekend Warrior, his first album in 10 years, Markie raps a 30-second freestyle over an acoustic guitar lick and what results is both droll and disappointing at the same time. After all, while every other rapper champions his poon-chasing sidekick, Markie will be relegated to the used rack for his baffling joviality.
Funny doesn't fit in rap anymore. And it's too bad.
While his new album has scant justification to exist for any soul other than disciples of Busta and Ol' Dirty Bastard, it does attest to his wavering, off-pitch, irresolute, raspy, dithering, vacillating, shit-sandwich of a voice. He will forever be the worst voice in rap-with the most endearing unpretentiousness.Biz Markie plays at L5, 9 p.m. on Jan. 9. $15-$20. 619-858-2100.