The Diabolical, aka Biz Markie, lives up to the largeness of his legend. He ducks to keep from hitting his head as he steps into DJ Hut, his massive body filling the door frame. He looks like someone you don't want to mess with.
“How you been?” calls Chris Stiles (pictured above), DJ Hut's co-owner, welcoming Markie back to the store that was called 12-Inch Vinyl the last time he was here, a few years ago. James Graham, the other owner, is playing Weekend Warrior (Bizmont/Tommy Boy, 2003), Markie's first album in 10 years.
Weekend Warrior, produced by Paul Nice and Megahertz, includes guests P. Diddy, Erick Sermon, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Elephant Man. It's a fun joint with 18 tracks encompassing funky beats, freestyle rhyming, generous doses of humor and a touch of nostalgia. Surprisingly, given current trends, it treats women like women. “My mother and father brought me up to treat elders and women with respect,” Markie says. “Whether they're homeless or whatever, you treat everybody with the same respect. Little kids are listening to a lot of the music, and we're their new super-heroes. I want to show kids they don't have to drink, smoke and talk about bitches and ho's to be cool. There's another world. I want kids to see there's still regular, plain, clean fun.”
And fun is what Markie is all about: The pioneer MC and DJ is known as the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop for his trademark pranksta humor. In all seriousness, though, he asks about books in a glass display case. Stiles recommends Last Night a DJ Saved My Life by Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton and Droppin' Science by William Eric Perkins. Markie nods, then moves toward the record bins.
Markie knows records. He started collecting in junior high school and now owns an estimated 85,000 to 90,000 12-inches, alphabetized by artist, for which he bought a separate house. “I don't let nobody go in there,” he says. “Everybody licks their lips when they see that.”
Born Marcel Hall in Harlem, N.Y., Markie grew up on Long Island. His mother called him Biz for being a busybody, and Markie, short for Marcel, was his neighborhood nickname. In 1985, producer Marley Marl discovered Markie while he was beatboxing in the Queensbridge Projects building where Marl lived. They began making demos together, which led to Markie signing to Prism Records (renamed Cold Chillin').
Markie became beatbox backup for Roxanne Shanté of the Juice Crew in 1986. His first single, “Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz,” came out the same year. His debut album, Goin' Off (Cold Chillin', 1988), included the singles “The Vapors,” “Nobody Beats the Biz” and “Pickin' Boogers.”
The Biz Never Sleeps (Cold Chillin', 1989) went Platinum due to the single “Just a Friend” and its comically off-key refrain. With his 1991 album, I Need a Haircut (Cold Chillin'), Markie attained even greater notoriety as a defendant in the landmark Biz Markie Sample Law case, in which Gilbert O'Sullivan sued him for sampling his 1972 ballad “Alone Again (Naturally)” on the track “On and On.” The judge ruled that sampling was theft under copyright law, ordered the album pulled from stores and awarded punitive damages to the plaintiff, whereupon legal clearances for samples became standard industry practice. Markie bounced back in 1993, his signature humor intact, with an album pointedly titled All Samples Cleared (Cold Chillin'); the MC costumed as a judge on its cover.
Markie moved to Laurel, Md., in 1996. “It was nice and settled, and people appreciate you more than in New York,” he says, though his cell phone ring plays “New York, New York.” For the past 10 years, he's been in constant demand as a DJ and MC, playing mega-events such as the Grammy and Academy Awards and the Super Bowl, as well as private parties for luminaries such as Diana Ross, Eddie Murphy, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, P. Diddy, Russell Simmons, Toni Braxton, and Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith. “Hip-hop, R&B, reggae, whatever the party needs, that's what I spin,” he says.
After picking through the store's vinyl and discussing the favorites that he already owns (thus buying the aforementioned books instead), Markie finally has to go — he has a flight to catch — and he ducks his head on the way out. Returning to his car across the street, Markie snatches the parking violation on his windshield with a grimace, then looks back, smiles and takes off with a wave.
Licensed to Ill (Def Jam)
Now these is my boys. This album right here will be talked about for the rest of our lives — historic. They used so many breaks on here, it was just sick, and their rhyme styles were just sick, too. Plus, they made statements that really, really mattered. This is one of my favorite albums. Rick Rubin really did his thing.
CHUCK BROWN AND THE SOUL SEARCHERS
Go Go Swing Live (Future)
Whether it's go-go or breakbeat, he's always been a godfather to all music. This has “Family Affair,” a big record, but he made “Bustin' Loose,” which Nelly made a record off of, and everybody in hip-hop, actually, used “Roach Clip.” Burned him, know what I mean? They used it. Chuck Brown will go down in history as one of the greatest at making the funky records.
“Fuck the Law” (Landspeed)
These boys come up with their own sound, their own stuff. I can't really describe their style, but it's gritty and straight funky.
DIAMOND AND THE PSYCHOTIC NEUROTICS
Best Kept Secret (Polygram)
Diamond D used to work at Downstairs Records, a beat-maker-turned-MC. He was funk-ay! He used a lot of Doobie Brothers [tracks]. That's my man.
KOOL G RAP & DJ POLO
Wanted: Dead or Alive (Cold Chillin')
G Rap is one of the most underrated, greatest MCs ever. A lot of people rhyme like him; a lot of people flip words around, talk the gangsta stuff, but this guy is incredible. Large Professor did a lot of work on this album. He used a lot of beats, like Avalanche and others, but it's the way he used them. This is a good album.
LL COOL J
Radio (Def Jam)
I was in the room; he'll tell you himself. He was writing “Rock the Bells” while we were sitting in a room at his grandmother's house. This is one of the baddest albums that ever, ever, ever came out. The rhyme styles and words he used are incredible. And no matter what type of adversity he went through, he still did it. LL was a young kid with a grown-man mind on this album. This is one of my favorites.
NICE & SMOOTH
“Funky for You” (Priority)
These are my boys. They brought singing and funk like me and [TJ] Swan did, but Swan couldn't rhyme. Gregg Nice could rhyme and rap, and Smooth could rhyme and sing. I love their albums. They are one of the most underrated groups in hip-hop history. They're coming back with some new stuff. I really like them.
SWEET TEE & JAZZY JOYCE
“It's My Beat” (Profile)
We got to go back to the '80s: Hurby [Luv Bug Azor] did a good job on this. Jazzy Joyce is my people. She was a girl DJ who went against guy DJs in the DMC and got all the way up there going against, like, Cash Money or Jazzy Jeff. Sweet Tee was a woman lyricist back in the day. I love all the women artists: Missy, Da Brat, Eve. They show it's not just about the men.
Life Is — Too $hort (BMG)
Hmm. How can I tell you? He came from Oakland, the Bay Area, and he's like, “Yo, they're just about New York making records. We can make records, too.” He was always selling records. One thing about Too $hort: He always had funk-ay beats on his jams.