rest in peace, biz markie

ONE WONDERFUL ASPECT of the pre-digital world was not knowing. And in the prehistoric dreamland dawn age of hip hop, when brontosauruses munched on wet leafy vegetation while pterodactyls swooped overhead, and the Fat Boys could be heard loading up at the all-you-can-eat buffet at Sbarro’s somewhere, this aspect of not knowing really counted. You just didn’t know who Grandmaster Flash was, or who Run-DMC were, other than that one of them was named Run and the other one was called DMC. You sort of could make out the identities of the Beastie Boys if you listened to Paul’s Boutique“Suckers they be saying they can take out Adam Horovitz” — and you knew that some of them were from Manhattan and some were from Brooklyn, but that’s all you knew. Because of this, rumors circulated that gave only more color and flavor to what were pretty humdrum, end-of-the-century lives of sitting around, smoking joints, drinking brass monkey, playing video games, shopping for new Adidas, skeezing with some groupies, and maybe later taking some LSD and listening to that new record from A Tribe Called Quest. My favorite hip hop rumor, heard in the Long Island suburbs around the time that Check Your Head came out, was that the Beastie Boys had taken time off from hip hop and had all enrolled at Villanova University, where they received their degrees. In English literature, I suppose. Or maybe physics? It seemed plausible. Mike D at least seemed to come from some prosperity, with his stolen VW ornament adorning his gold chain, so why not Villanova? Then River Phoenix died and Ad-Rock beat up that photographer at the funeral. That was also part of the lore. Which brings us to Biz Markie, who died this week at 57. It was only at his death did I learn what his real name was (Marcel Theo Hall), or how old he was, or what any of his life story was. He was just the emcee in the wig crooning in his broken voice, “And you say he’s just a friend, and you say he’s just a friend …” God, what man among us hasn’t lived out the lines in that song? I think every kid on the school bus was singing that in the fall of ’89. Imagine all of those heads in rows, rolling down the street, reciting every word. We just liked the song. We knew nothing else. Rest in peace, Biz Markie. For me, you will always be an emcee from the dawn of history. An ancient hero with a mic.

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