The musician was known as the Clown Prince of Hip Hop.

By Nick Romano
July 16, 2021 at 08:15 PM EDT
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Biz Markie, the influential New York rapper known as the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop, died on Friday of undisclosed causes. He was 57.

"It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, Hip Hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away," representatives for the "Just a Friend" rapper said in a statement to EW.

Biz Markie
Biz Markie in 2006
| Credit: Rick Diamond/WireImage

The statement continued: "We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support that we have received during this difficult time. Biz created a legacy of artistry that will forever be celebrated by his industry peers and his beloved fans whose lives he was able to touch through music, spanning over 35 years. He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one."

Although no official cause of death was provided to EW, TMZ reported that the rapper's death was caused by a "series of complications from diabetes that he's been fighting for more than a year."

Hall was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2010. In an interview with New York Daily News published in September 2013, he said he lost 141 pounds from exercise and healthier eating. A year later, he told ABC News, "I wanted to live. Since I have to be a diabetic, if I didn't make the changes, it was going to make the diabetes worse. I'm trying to get off [the diabetes meds]. The way you gotta do it is lose the weight. I'm off half my meds, I just got to get off the rest."

American rapper and actor, Biz Markie, near the offices Warner Bros. Records (owners of his record label, Cold Chillin’), Wrights Lane, Kensington, London, 6th April 1988. (Photo by David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Biz Markie in 1988
| Credit: David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Rumors spread at the beginning of July that Markie, born Marcel Theo Hall in April 1964, had died. While his manager debunked those claims, he mentioned the hip-hop icon was "still under medical care" and "surrounded by professionals who are working hard to provide the best health care possible."

Hall's reps confirmed to TMZ at the time that he had been hospitalized in a Maryland-area facility for weeks in July 2020 due to complications with diabetes. Then, this past April, rapper Big Daddy Kane said during an appearance on The Breakfast Club that Hall was recovering from a stroke.

"He's in rehabilitation now. He's getting better and stronger every day," Kane said at the time. "Last time I talked to him on the phone, he got a real light voice, but last time I talked on the phone. He stuck his middle finger up at me, so I think he's coming along."

As Biz Markie, Hall released his debut album Goin' Off in 1988 with its lead single "Make the Music With Your Mouth, Biz" and songs like "Vapors" and "Nobody Beats the Biz." His Biz Never Sleeps album followed a year later with "Just a Friend," which would become his most famous hit.

"I just wanted to make a story rap record, not to go pop or anything," Hall told EW in a 2019 interview to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the friends-zone jam, which features Hall alternating between rap and singing, while sampling Freddie Scott's "You Got What I Need." The tracked landed on VH1's 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop in 2008.

Hall knew the song had become a national success "when Howard Stern and Frankie Crocker and all the white stations around the country started playing it. Because I went around with my own money and I went around the country and promoted the record by myself."

The hip-hop star would go on to release three more studio albums and various compilations.

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