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Spotlight Series: Biz Markie

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Tomorrow night, Sheboygan is in for a real treat! At the Levitt AMP Sheboygan Music Series, presented by the John Kohler Arts Center, audiences will enjoy an evening of extreme printmaking, Zumba and hip-hop dance lessons and a performance by legendary hip-hop artist Biz Markie.

The “Clown of Hip-Hop”

It’s hard not to smile while listening to a playful Biz Markie tune. Born in Harlem and raised in Long Island, Marcel Hall took on the alias of Biz Markie when he started beatboxing and rhyming in his early teen years. His sharp wit and quick wordplay quickly earned him the title “the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop.” Markie's hit 1989 single, “Just a Friend,” solidified his place in American pop culture.

The song that started it all

“Just a Friend” is a playful interpolation of soul singer/songwriter Freddie Scott’s 1968 song, “You Got What I Need.” Scott’s chord structure lays the musical groundwork for “Just a Friend,” most evident in the use of Scott’s piano part as a riff in Markie’s song. In addition, Scott’s titular, catchy hook, which expresses the speaker’s undeniable affections for his lover, becomes recontextualized in Markie’s comedic hip-hop single about unrequited love. While Scott sings of a love that is solid and true, Markie playfully raps about the more fickle side of love.

“Just a Friend” reappears

The lifespan of “Just a Friend” has gone far past its stint in the #9 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1990. In 2008, the comically tragic tune was included on VH1’s prestigious list of 100 Greatest Songs of Hip-Hop. Since its release over 25 years ago, the song continues to make surprise appearances in our daily lives—from television shows like Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, where Markie performed an unforgettable duet with Jeff Goldblum in 2010; to viral YouTube videos like the Muppet mash-up that brought us a chuckle earlier this year; to full-length films, like Fox's 2014 animated comedy, The Book of Life (shown above), which included a delightful mariachi/norteño rendition of the tune.

Enjoy these videos and get a taste of the wit and humor that the one and only Biz Markie will bring to the stage on July 9 as part of the Levitt AMP Sheboygan Music Series!

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