American rapper and actor, Biz Markie, performing at The Fridge, Brixton, London, 1988. (Photo by David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
There’s a video on YouTube of a 22-year-old Marcel Theo Hall aka Biz Markie, taken in 1986 by an energetic and unassumingly charismatic Biz beatboxing for Roxanne Shante on the classic, “Def Fresh Crew” freestyle. Roxanne, who was a well-known and established rapper in New York at the time, would give Biz his first big opportunity to showcase his unique style as a beatboxer and began performing whole shows with no DJ, just Biz. Roxanne recalls this period saying, “I always knew that Biz was destined for bigger and better things than just being a beatboxer.” Between 1986 and 1987 Biz met superstar producer and sound engineer, Marly Marl while beatboxing for a crowd in the hallway of Marly’s building in Queens. Marly recognized what Roxanne saw in Biz and soon after they would begin recording music for Biz Markie’s debut album. What Biz didn’t know is that in just two years from the time he was hanging out with Roxanne Shante and The Juice Crew, he would be a stand-out contributor to what is popularly regarded as the greatest year in hip hop, 1988.
In any popular culture, there are great moments that are pivotal to the progression of that culture, moments that solidify the grounds on which it’s built. In hip hop culture, 1988 was that moment.
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