Biz Markie :: Goin' Off :: Cold Chillin'/Prism Records
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

The list of platitudes you can attach next to Marcel Hall's name is certainly enough to make him a first year inductee into ANY Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. But who is Marcel Hall? Well you know him, as the B-I-Z, the Emmezah-Emmezah-A-R-K-I-E. If you heard these words in your head when you clicked on the review, you already know. Originally introduced into hip-hop as a beatbox for Juice Crew artists like MC Shan and Roxanne Shante, Biz snuck up on hip-hop listeners back in the era where a hot 12" could do as much or more for your rep than a whole album. Once New York's boombox set heard the humor and charm of songs like "Pickin' Boogers" and "Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz," it was inevitable that he would take that style to a much larger audience nationally and worldwide.

"The party rippin, never trippin, king of crowd pleasin
I can turn it out without a doubt in any season
I entertain crowds, a million and thous'
Homeboys makin noise, as I do browse through a girl's blouse
Say the funky rhyme to make the girls get naked
I can turn it out, with different sounds on my record
That I say give 'em, as y'all exault the rhythm
The magnificent record maker of Prism"
- "Biz is Goin' Off"

For a newer generation of hip-hop fans, it may be hard to comprehend how intoxicating the era from the mid 1980's through mid 1990's really was. Even though hip-hop had been on wax for at least a decade, it was only during that "golden era" period that rap music really began to crossover to the mainstream. Thanks to artists like Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, N.W.A., Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, Public Enemy and the Beastie Boys among others, the door to a wide range of hip-hop styles from pop friendly to rough'n'rugged hardcore rap was busted wide open. In fact upstarts like Cold Chillin' and Def Jam had as much or more success than the majors in these days, because they often seemed "out of touch" with what listeners really wanted to hear. And if the success of Biz Markie's underground hit "Vapors" proved anything, they wanted to see Biz and his crew tell the girls who used to ignore them back in the day to step off now that they had made it. Here's part of his verse for homeboy, and oft-time chorus crooning compadre, TJ Swan:

"When Swan tried to kick it, she always fessed
Talkin about, 'Baby please, you work for UPS!'
Since he wasn't no type of big drug dealer
My man TJ Swan didn't appeal to her
But now he trucks gold and wears fly Valley boots
Rough leather fashions and tough silk suits
Now she stop frontin, an' wants to speak and be comin to all the shows, every single weekend
To get his beeper number, she'd be beggin please
Dyin for the day to get skeezed! She caught THE VAPORS!"

In such an era what listeners desired was not predicated on how big of a car their favorite rapper drove, how much "bling bling" he wore or how much Hennessy he drank. That's not to say rappers like EPMD didn't brag about sipping on "Martini & Rossi, Asti Spumante," but simply that you could succeed based simply on the strength of your vocal tone, flow, charisma and beats without having to be propped up by a billion dollar record company. If Biz had anything, it was personality in spades. He became something of an anti-hero for both underground and pop culture, a self-confessed "Ugly N#%ga" whose face could turn milk sour, who just so happened to have some of the funniest and best produced raps on the planet. And speaking of production, it was 1988 when Biz finally released his full-length debut album "Goin' Off," produced entirely by New York kingpin Marley Marl. In these days Marley's simple and highly effective production style could do no wrong, and Biz Markie's official debut proved it yet again on songs like "Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz." Other than Audio Two's "Top Billin'," LL Cool J's "Rock the Bells" and Run-D.M.C.'s "Sucker MC's," it may have the single most identifiable hop-hop beat of the entire 1980's. A background shuffle was the glue, a kick drum and snare alternated the beat, tinkling pianos provided melody, and a machine gun powerful "tap tap tap, TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP-TAP" broke it down periodically to both catch your attention and keep your hands, head and feet all moving to the beat. Put the bass in the place and all that was left was for Biz Markie to create verses that would make him a rap legend, and that he did:

"Well I'm the human ultra called Biz Markie
Makin music orderly is my specialty
When I go {*BOOM*} ah one two, girls get excited
When they hear my lyrics they wanna recite 'em
I know y'all in the mood, just go with the flow
And I can play rappin records and all disco
Like "Beat It," "Billie Jean," by Michael Jackson
Or the Treacherous 3 record, they call "Action"
When you hear me do it, you will be shocked and amazed
It's the brand new thing they call the human beatbox craze"

The icing on the cake was the chorus that followed - TJ Swan crooning the words "Make the music with your mouth, Biz!" while the vocal innovator did just that, making sounds and noises come out of his throat and mouth that were positively INHUMAN. Rap had seen a lot of famous beatboxers to this point, from Doug E. Fresh to Buffy the Human Beatbox, but none had splashed into pop culture quite as broadly and dramatically as Biz did with this song. To be honest though, this isn't even my favorite tag team duet between Biz and TJ Swan on the record. By all accounts this song can attribute its catchy chorus to a parody of radio jingles for a New York electronics store called The Wiz. "Nobody beats The Wiz, nobody beats The Wiz" they said. Oh really? No, we can do one better than that. How about a man who is his own personal boombox, batteries not included OR required? Truly Swan was right when he sang it - "Nobody Beats the Biz":

"On and on, to the break of dawn
When you buy food cheap, you need a coupon
or catch a sale retail, before it gets stale
So hurry up and get the WIC check out the mail
and shop non-stop, but how I hip-hop
on the mic and like, make you co-op-er-ate
with the rhythm, that is what I give 'em
Reagan is the Pres but I voted for Shirley Chilsholm
It might sound confusing, the style that I'm using
But in the end I'm sure that you will find it quite amusing
and funny, oh honey, it's just ridiculous
Don't try to front, come on and admit you was
thrilled, chilled, your heart was all filled
So respect the architect, as I begin to build
Science and my reliance is upon my rap
Like Carl Lewis I get to it, so let's go the lap!"

If you can measure a record's impact upon not only rap fans but other MC's by how many times it's been sampled, Biz Markie's "Goin' Off" would have to rank as an all time champ. To this day Guru and Bahamadia's "Respect the Architect" ranks as one of my favorite rap records, not only because of the fly beat and fly MC's but DJ Premier's highly appropriate choice of Biz Markie sample - one of literally hundreds if not THOUSANDS you'll find throughout rap records from 1988 to today. Of course some MC's went beyond just sampling from Biz in their raps, they actually adapted his rhymes into their own as tribute. Take this verse from the previosuly quoted "Biz is Goin' Off":

"Ha ha ha ha ha! Check out this bizarre
Rappin style used by me, the B-I-Z
Emm-A-R-K-I with the E and, you will be agreein
A brother ain't a brother unless he is say like G'n"

Does it seem vaguely familiar? If you're a fan of the late great Notorious B.I.G. it should, because he used those same lines with a little twist in his classic rap "What's Beef?" In fact, he even FLOWED it the same way:

"Ha ha ha ha ha, check out this bizarre
rapper style used by me, the B.I.G.
I put my ki you put your ki in, money we'll be seein
Will reach the fuckin ceiling, check, check it"

Biz Markie rightly deserves his acclaim, both for his influence on the genre of hip-hop and as an artist in his own right. To be fair though, "Goin' Off" is not without its problems. While Biz for a time could be said to own New York's airwaves with his singles, his full length album showed a little less consistancy. Songs like "Albee Square Mall" and the perhaps TOO commercially friendly "This is Something for the Radio" were acceptable, but when Biz revised his own "Biz Dance" with the "Return of the Biz Dance" the results were somewhat less than acceptable. Hip-Hop purists may also find themselves dissapointed that those classic 80's Biz songs they remember are not presented in their original 12" form but as "Special Marley Marl Remixes." The humerous underground hit "Pickin' Boogers" is left alone, but "Make the Music With Your Mouth Biz," the "Biz Dance" and "Nobody Beats the Biz" all got this treatment. Why? Who can say. Ironically though it makes albums like Biz's "Greatest Hits" a good investment to get the original treatments. It also must be noted, for the record, that Biz did not pen a lot of the rhymes on this album. While it was his oddly refreshing combination of laconically smooth and slightly mushmouthed vocals and tone of voice that made the words work, Big Daddy Kane was the pen behind most of these early hits.

In the end though, for an album that has as much funky soul as any record by James Brown or George Clinton, with as much charm as Slick Rick or Pete Nice, with as much flair for storytelling as Kool G. Rap or Ice Cube, "Goin' Off" is definitely an exemplary record that stands up to the test of time. It's not perfect by any stretch, but neither is Biz himself, and he's never claimed to be. Biz will be remembered as the Ruben Studdard of his time, a man who would have been judged incapable of succeeding in entertainment on his looks alone, who shocked his peers and generated cheers to a worldwide audience of fans. And the best part is, Biz is still entertaining fans even today, having just recently released "Weekend Warrior" after almost a decade long hiatus as an MC. If you haven't picked up either record, start with "Goin' Off" to see how he made himself a rap legend, then go cop the new joint to see that he's still got it. As a rapper, beatbox, DJ and even an ACTOR of all things, he is a rap renaissance man who may not have even hit his prime; so remember, "Nobody Beats the Biz."

Music Vibes: 8 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10

Originally posted: March 9, 2004