Monday (Aug. 2), family, friends and industry peers gathered together at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts to celebrate the life and legacy of hip hop icon Biz Markie. The Harlem-born rapper spent his early years in Long Island, where he was laid to rest.
Best known for his sense of humor and desire to spread love everywhere he went, the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop,” born Marcel Theo Hall, was remembered by loved ones as a “lifeline” per Big Daddy Kane, who could only provide REVOLT the single thought as he mourned the loss of his brother.
Fans gathered outside the venue, behind barricades, dancing and singing to Biz Markie and Juice Crew tracks on a big speaker while cheering for the celebrities who filed in. The hearse was bookend by black sprinter vans awaiting the final procession. Arrangements were handled by Rose’s Funeral Home from Bay Shore, New York. One Patchogue resident, Sandra Ghram, remembered how the late rapper and DJ made good on a promise to buy his mother a home in the village.
Inside, celebs like Fat Joe, Ice T, LL Cool J, Leeland Roberts of Sugar Hill Records and Ceaser Emanuel from “Black Ink Crew” paid their respects. DJ Boof provided the soundtrack while Demont Pinder performed a live painting throughout the duration of the service. Talent the Comedian served as the master of ceremonies keeping the energy as light as possible with quick quips about Biz’s love for comedy while guests expressed deep emotions. Busta Rhymes even had to excuse himself at one point. Talent took a swig of Heineken on stage to honor the way Biz would call him out at shows.
Roxanne Shante, who put Biz on his first track, reflected on the impact this loss means to her, “Today is a very difficult day for me. It’s a part of my childhood, my life, my soul that is being laid to rest.”
Biz Markie provided not only hope and joy for everyone he ever crossed paths with, but he helped facilitate opportunities for many. Take Kid Capri for example. Biz gave him his first record deal on Warner Bros. Capri remembered a time when he was selling his mixtape on the corner when the now late star pulled up and first played “Just a Friend.”
“I said, ‘Biz don’t put that record out. It’s cra—’,” Capri said. “[Biz] said ‘Watch.’ He put that record out and the next year we were on tour together. If everybody was like him, this would be an incredible world.”
Similarly, Grammy-nominated songwriter Mary Brown referred to her brief talking points before belting out a soul-stirring rendition of “Just a Prayer Away,” which received a standing ovation, especially from Redman. Brown reminisced on the day in high school she met Biz at a rap battle against her brother before the trio became life-long friends who’d riff together with Biz on the beatbox. “I went on to sing backup on the album of one of [Biz’s] artists, Grand Daddy I.U. ‘Sugar Free’,” she recalled.
Fashion icon and Harlem resident Dapper Dan shared with REVOLT, “When I was forced into the underground, Biz always came to the store sometimes late at night. I’d be sleeping because I kept the store open 365 days a year. Biz would put the gate up and we’d break day together. That was Biz. He transcends rap, man.”
Grandmaster Caz, who used to write for Biz, shared his final reflections. “We lost a giant. We lost an icon, and I lost a brother and a friend,” he said. “Biz used to pick me up in a homeless shelter at one point in a brand new BMW and it’s parked outside and everyone is like, “Who is that? Oh! Biz Markie! Biz Markie! And I go tipping outside like, “Alright, ya’ll be good” (laughs). “For every period in my life, he’s always been there, so this is a real deep loss for me,” he concluded.
Reverend Al Sharpton delivered a touching eulogy that made listeners question what their lives will mean to others. “The only thing that will matter three minutes after you’re gone is what you did for others,” he said. “Biz never lost his authenticity. He made being Black mainstream. Wherever he was, he was who he was. He broke down doors that we didn’t even know were there. His heart was with the folks and the folks knew it because we never stopped being like us. Biz was more than just a friend,” Rev. Sharpton professed.
Biz Markie’s widow, Tara L. Hall, showed her strength and took the mic to share her love for her late husband and fond memories of him from Biz shooting basketball with their daughter Averi to playing with their puppy Major. “He made me laugh every day and that’s no hyperbole,” she said through a slight chuckle. She remembered one of their final exchanges. Biz told her, “I have the best job in the world.” She questioned, “What? Being a DJ?” and he said, “No, just being me.”
Biz Markie passed away last month on July 16 at 57 years old and is survived by his mother, Elois Parker; Dora Lee; sisters Yvonne Hall, Dr. Kathryn (Sue) Parker, Yolanda “Yummy” Parker and Camellia Lee; brothers Roy Hall, Solon (Bill) Parker, Sheldon (Diamond Shell) Parker, Joseph Parker, Victor Parker, Vaughn (DJ Cool V) Lee, Previn Lee and a host of other loved ones.