Biz Markie, Spittin’ the Truth to the Youth
The Biz never sleeps and while he may have been out of hip-hop’s spotlight for some years, the legendary MC, DJ and beat box artist has kept plenty busy. After scoring his biggest hit with “Just a Friend,” off of his 1989 sophomore album (The Biz Never Sleeps), Markie dropped three more solo albums. Even though his last solo effort, Weekend Warrior, dropped back in 2003, the veteran has been DJin' prestigious parties and making television appearances on Nickelodeon’s hit kids show, Yo Gabba Gabba. On the hip-hop friendly program, he hosts "Biz's Beat of the Day" segment, where he instructs kids on the art of beat boxing. How’s that for relevance?
XXLMag.com got a chance to sit down with the diabolical one to discuss his future plans and why, even after over 20 years in the game, still, nobody beats the Biz.
XXLMag.com: Tell us about Yo Gabba Gabba. How did your involvement in the show come about?
Biz: I know the creator of the show and he initially wanted me to do the dance of the day, but due to a back injury I couldn’t, so instead I created "Biz's Beat of the Day" to teach the kids how to beat box. We did that for the pilot and the response was overwhelming, so I became a part of the show.
XXLMag.com: Do you think the art of beat boxing is still being relevant in the game, because from the mainstream standpoint, it seemed to have faded out?
Biz: In the mainstream, it may seem to have faded out, but it is still very prevalent in the underground scene and overseas, so people are still doing it. The problem is that it is no longer on the front page like rap is, so it makes it seem obsolete, when in fact it's still very much a part of the culture just like being a DJ.
XXLMag.com: Do you think your role in Yo Gabba Gabba can spark a renewed interest in the art of beat boxing?
Biz: The thing about kids is they recognize what’s real. I am really just doing the show for the essence, nothing really complicated just to teach the little ones how to do it. As far as for the older generation, if you grew up on hip-hop and you are 30 plus, not even 30, let’s say 25, then you know all about the art of beat boxing because it’s very much a part of the culture. I think that people feel like it’s a lost art because the media doesn’t really give a lot of recognition for it anymore. But like I said it’s still very much alive, if you go over to Hong Kong or somewhere like that, you will see it kicking because they are in love with the hip-hop as a culture. That is something I think that we in America lack, is respect for hip-hop as a whole.
XXLMag.com: You go out on tour with the show and do Yo Gabba Gabba Live in different cities, how is it to actually perform for a crowd full of kids versus older hip-hop heads?
Biz: [Laughs] The funny thing is, I was reading a review of the show on the Internet and someone had asked why I was beat boxing so slow and tried to diss me. I had to respond and tell them, “Look, dummy, I'm beat boxing for little kids.” I can’t get up there and do something complex with kids.
XXLMag.com: Looking back, did you ever think that you'd be entertaining kids at this point in your career?
Biz: Honestly, everything I have always done has been for the kids, whether it was [in my songs] “Pickin’ Boogers” or “Toilet Stool Rap,” I just wanted it to be funny and relevant. With that being said, it’s not really a stretch for me because we are the ones teaching them and they look up to us, so it’s only right that I do what I do to keep them entertained.
XXLMag.com: Will you do another solo album?
Biz: You know, I have been thinking about releasing an album. If I do, it will be for my own satisfaction and for my fans. The good thing about where I am in my career is that I don’t have a label rushing me to put out something that I don’t want to put out because of a deadline. The way it is now, I can take my time and really put out a quality product that the fans will enjoy. To me, that is a must, because that means I am doing it for the art and not because I have to do it.
XXLMag.com: If you do a new album who would you like to collaborate with?
Biz: No, features aren’t really my thing. Every album I have released pretty much has been all me. If I do add any features, it would be with my friends like Slick Rick and Dana Dane. I would have all them together and I am doing the beat box or me and Doug E. Fresh doing the beats with Big Daddy Kane, something like that would be more of my thing. I am not one of those artists that will run out and jump on a track with someone just because their hot right now, all of my features will feature artists who are 30 and older.
XXLMag.com: Being that you have been in the game for over 20 years, what is your opinion on the current state of hip-hop?
Biz: I think that hip-hop now is more corporate; with that being said it’s more commercial. People may get mad at me, but I like artists like Soulja Boy and other people that are coming out and making their own type of music and not following the trend. I like Rick Ross and cats like that because it’s keeping hip-hop alive. So many people want to talk about old school and new school, but really the mission should be to be as creative as you can to keep hip-hop alive.
XXLMag.com: Do you think that the increase in illegal music downloads and the decrease in album sales will lead to hip-hop returning to its artistic roots?
Biz: I think now it’s no longer in the hands of the greedy and it’s back in the hands of hip-hoppers now, because you have the MySpace and places like that which allow people to put out their own records.
XXLMag.com: Is that a good thing or bad thing, because now it’s easier for any Joe Blow to call themselves a rapper and gather fame?
Biz: You know what, you can have as many people as you want to put out music, but it still comes down to only the strong will survive. People don’t realize how much radio and video control what people buy, but I am glad that there are some real MCs out there that keep doing their thing regardless. Look at artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Jay Electronica that are making great songs, but the radio won’t play them and I don’t know why. —Tiffany Hamilton