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Biz Markie is a hip-hop legend, but you’d never know it from this interview that didn’t get recorded

Beat of the Day



"I'm one of the original human beat boxes. It's just what I do."

Well, duh. Biz Markie is on the other end of the line, promoting the Yo Gabba Gabba tour when something starts beeping. The digital recorder shuts off, and the piercing pain cutting through my dome is the result of a self-inflicted palm to the face. Purchasing all my electronics from the Acme catalog might have been a bad idea. My questions — based on 20-odd years of fandom and written to sound as erudite as possible — are incredibly stupid, and just make my little chunk of junket time feel even more like speed dating in a mortuary. Everything that could possibly go wrong goes way, way wrong. And it rules.

I'd been a fan of the diabolical, energetical, poetical, numerical, new lyrical man, Biz Markie, ever since I conned my then-6-year-old sister out of her allowance so we could "share" the cassingle of "Just a Friend." I pored over albums like Goin' Off, I Need a Haircut and All Samples Cleared in the decades in between when "Friends" reigned on the charts and when it entered the canon of Great American Pop Songs. I spent years obsessing over the minutiae of songs like "Muddfoot" and "T.S.R. (Toilet Stool Rap)," getting lost in the rhymes that were more like Silly Putty where his peers often went for a sound like chiseled stone.

I'd written papers about him in college — his lawsuit with '70s folk singer Gilbert O'Sullivan is one of the cornerstones of modern copyright law — and dragged unwitting, hipper-than-thou friends to his DJ sets only to watch their irony-based interest converted into full-on adoration for his off-the-cuff crate-diggin' cuts. (The dude rocks a party like most people breathe oxygen.) His classic mix album On the Turntable was like a blueprint for my adult record collection, and he wrote "Pickin' Boogers" — as close to a theme song as I'm ever likely to have.

While the goofiness in Markie's catalog might have lured my elementary-school self in — "word to Grannie's panties" — it's his verbosity and ability to bend and twist the English language to his will like a jazz soloist that keeps this professional wordsmith putting "Let Go My Eggo" on repeat. Likewise, Markie's productions were like the Pandora's box of sample sets, opening up a world beyond the J.B.'s samples that epitomized most of Golden Age hip-hop, encompassing pop, folk and classic rock, laying down foundation for turntablism's rap revisionism in the '90s and set the aesthetic for much of the past decade's backpack sounds. He's been the inspiration for a billion bad beat-boxing attempts — I probably just should not make music, with my mouth or otherwise. And then, when the moment finally arrived to talk to him — honestly, the apex of both my personal and professional life — I just blew it.

The man's music is timeless in a way that no car commercial or wedding DJ can ever convey. But how do you tell a person all this without coming across like a total choad? How do say, "Your participation in children's television is the only thing that gives me hope for future generations of Americans" without coming across like a sycophant douche? Good question, but one I certainly don't have the answer for — I was just stoked to have the worst interview ever with one of the greatest hip-hoppers of all time. It's probably for the best that the tape wasn't rolling.


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