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SXSW: Biz Markie Phones One In

Eighties MC coasts through a corporate gig at the Madison

By Kevin Curtin, 1:37PM, Sun. Mar. 9

More than friends? Biz Markie at the Madison, 3.8.14
More than friends? Biz Markie at the Madison, 3.8.14
photo by Kevin Curtin

With unofficial South by Southwest events, it can be difficult to predict whether it’s an actual concert or some lower form of performance like an “appearance” or an “afterparty.” I would’ve billed Biz Markie’s show at the Madison Saturday night as a “half-assed, 20-minute cameo.”

A key figure in the NYC hip-hop scene of the Eighties and a pop culture footnote for his one commercial success, unsinkable dorm room anthem “Just a Friend,” the rap MC appeared last night at a free party by Kiip, a mobile advertising network.

Accordingly, the small Fifth Street dance club was packed with well-groomed creative directors and junior marketing managers drunk on free booze and waving glow wands printed with “I Love Kiip.” The 49-year-old sample addict born Marcel Hall emerged at 8:30pm and took position behind the DJ table since there was no stage. He began by demonstrating his a cappella talents as the “human beatbox,” but abandoned the routine due to a poor microphone mix.

From there it was “Biz is Going Off,” followed by “Vapors” and “Nobody Beats the Biz” from his 1988 debut, and “Let Me Turn You On” from 1993’s All Samples Cleared. Performing with all the focus of a punch drunk boxer, the rapper was lethargic and at times appeared to be reading the lyrics off his laptop.

Demonstrating increased frustration over his microphone volume, Markie played his trump card early, signaling the DJ to spin “Just a Friend.” From the opening line, “Have you ever met a girl you tried to date,” all that had been bad became good. The audience came alive and the MC, for the first time, showed signs of life, throwing his hands in the air to conduct the mass sing-a-long: “Girl, you got what I need, but you say he’s just a friend.”

While there’s something to be said for ending strong, the damage had been done. Biz was just bad. I guess you get what you pay for.

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