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No Country for Old (Rap) Men: Biz Markie, the voice of a generation

Known for his beatboxing and freestyle rhyming, it's really his angelic singing that should be appreciated

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Biz Markie is universally beloved in a way that only Snoop Dogg seems to have achieved, in that everyone from your teenage nephew to your grandmother think he’s awesome, thanks to his crossover hit ‘Just A Friend’ and his work on children’s television show/acid freakout Yo Gabba Gabba. Known for his beatboxing finesse and love of freestyle rhyming, it’s really his angelic singing voice that deserve to be appreciated. Fortunately for music lovers everywhere, several other keen-eared observers have utilized his unique talents over the years.

01. The Spin Doctors and Biz Markie – 'That's The Way (I Like It)'

Most people think of R. Kelly’s iconic ‘I Can Believe I Can Fly’ when they recall the soundtrack to
Space Jam (the movie which teamed up Michael Jordan with Bugs Bunny to play b-ball against some aliens, aka the one moment in western civilization that we can all look back on fondly and thus justifies our existence on this small planet), but those of us in the know immediately jump to this bizarre remake of KC and the Sunshine Band’s 1975 disco classic. The Spin Doctors were already spiralling into a commercial and creative decline by 1996, having shed a couple of members, which may explain why they were more than happy to abandon the last vestiges of any self-respect and throw themselves down the well of wacky cover versions. To further rub salt into the wound, Biz completely steals the show from lead singer Chris Barron—although I suspect that was the point all along.

02. Chris Rock feat. Biz Markie – 'Snow Flake'

This track from Chris Rock’s 1999 comedy album
Bigger & Blacker is absolute gold, as the Diabolical professes his love for the broads who are the lighter shade of pale via a remake of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Brown Sugar.’ Biz belts out lines such as ‘Halle and Tyra just put me to sleep/Give me Sharon Stone, Pamela Lee and Meryl Streep’ with enough gusto to put Mick Jagger’s original ode to ‘jungle fever’ to shame. Here’s hoping that Biz records an entire album of rock remakes of this caliber—preferably with Mr. Rock on writing duties.

03. Canibus feat. Biz Markie – 'Shove This Jay-Oh-Bee'

Another soundtrack sure-shot—this time for Mike Judge’s cult-classic
Office Space. The usually insufferable Canibus does a good job of describing the misery of corporate employment via the long-forgotten art of multi-syllable rapping, while the B-I-Z does his best rendition of Johnny Paycheck’s county and western standard, ‘Take This Job and Shove It.’ If nothing else, this song reminds me that it’s time for me to rewatch Office Space again and finally check out the follow-up, Extract, despite it’s soundtrack being sadly Biz-free.

04. Diamond Shell feat. Biz Markie – 'Oh What A Night'

The Grand Imperial Diamond Shell was Biz Markie’s younger brother, who was inspired to start rapping after seeing his sibling mobbed by fans at the local mall. Here, the big fella recreates Franki Valli’s 1975 hit in his trademark off-key drawl in between Shelly-D describing how he swung some late night episodes, as they used to say in the classics.

05. The Beastie Boys feat. Biz Markie – 'Benny and The Jets'

Originally released as a flexi-disc on the second issue of the crews’
Grand Royal magazine, this went on to become a fan favourite for obvious reasons. Biz absolutely massacres Bernie Taupin’s lyrics, having to mumble over half of it since he either can’t remember of never bothered to learn the words in the first place, while the Beastie’s do a good version of replaying Elton John’s original. Hearing Mr. Markie’s voice crack as he attempts to hit the high notes is a thing of true beauty. I’ve never been able to work out if this is actual live recording or if they just overdubbed the crowd sounds in the studio, but either way it’s still capable of enraging music snobs in the YouTube comments section to this very day.