All tributes to the human orchestra called Biz Markie, who died on Friday at the age of 57, were led by a reference to Biz’s biggest hit, the platinum smash, Just a friend.
The truth is, back in 1989 when the fun, self-deprecating Biz track that introduced us to the Friends Zone came out, Biz was already a hip-hop legend.
Steam and It’s something for the radio, both released in 1988 during my freshman year of high school, were the music of carefree teenagers. Biz with MC Shan, Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl and Roxanne Shante were the members of the Juice Crew. They had jams that rocked the speakers and pulsed through boomboxes in city parks and basketball courts. And like Biz, we also became human beatboxes, turning our lips into percussion instruments.
The artists of the Biz generation were the pillars on which hip-hop was built. Without these pioneers, there would be no Jay-Z or Eve, let alone Lil Nas X or Megan Thee Stallion.
But Biz’s death reminded me that we are no longer those children.
As I emerge from the pandemic with a wide band of grays and a pair of progressive lenses – pretty words for bifocals – I remember many of the artists responsible for the soundtrack in my life past their age. mature and approaching early retirement. They die. It’s strange when I remember a musical genre where the performers never seem to get old. In my mind, hip-hop artists are like vampires, always young like Pharrell.
But wait … Pharrell is 48 years old. I will be 48 in October.
The sad truth is that Biz Markie – born Marcel Theo Hall in Harlem in 1964 – is the latest in a series of old-fashioned rap artists who have passed away. recently.
Prince Markie Dee of the Fat Boys died in February. He was only 52 years old.
DMX was 50 when he died in April.
Digital underground founder Shock G was 57 when he died few weeks later.
The hip-hop community still mourns the death of rapper and producer Andre Harrell who was among the first producers to mix hip-hop and R&B, ushering in the era of the New Jack Swing. Harrell was only 59 when he died in May 2020.
These men were about the same age as our grandfathers when we were little. And it is not uncommon to lose grandfathers.
I’m still trying to figure out the old man status in the hip-hop club because these icons were far from the oldest artists still in the game. Lots of greats: Diana Ross, Quincy Jones, Smokey Robinson, Gladys Knight , Patti LaBelle, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff are alive and well and still relevant today.
Hell, Motown founder Berry Gordy is 91!
The point is, we have forgotten that we are getting old with them.
The generation behind us is also aging. Philly’s favorite rapper Will Smith is 52. His wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, is 49 years old. And their daughter, Willow Smith, who is 20 years old, recently shaved his head at a Facebook Live concert. Wasn’t she just a cute 9 year old girl whipping her hair back and forth? What is happening?
This is called the circle of life. While it seems like hip-hop should be safe from aging, it isn’t. And I remember it everyday when I look at myself in the mirror and see my rounder face and tired eyes staring at me. Cardholder member of the hip-hop generation, there is no escape.
Yet as I mourn the passing of my favorite hip-hop artists, I see how the golden age of hip-hop, much like our parents’ beloved Motown, endures. It survives in my car on my commute to and from work, where classic hip-hop is a staple of morning and afternoon commutes.
This continues when I dance in my living room on VH1 and BET plays Kwame and A Tribe Called Quest videos.
He survives when DJ Cassidy passes the mic into a virtual figure by Doug E. Fresh in Rakim during his pandemic period Pass the microphone series on YouTube. It just keeps going when I catch a repeat of NCIS: Los Angeles with LL Cool J, or when I log into CBS ‘ Equalizer with Queen Latifah. It lives on in the entertaining but inaccurate biopics of Salt-N-Pepa and TLC on Lifetime Movie Network.
And it was certainly alive during the 20th anniversary celebration of Tastytreats, the old-school classic dance party hosted by Stacy “Flygirrl” Wilson and Questlove. The recent party drew dozens of hip-hop heads – many of whom are now silver foxes and “Girl Dad” rocking t-shirts – happy to have survived the pandemic.
Between bites of Tastykakes and cans of Liquid Death, the latest in premium water – not beer – we jumped our heads and did the electric slide to music that defined who we were then.
But because of who we are now, the party ended at 11 p.m.