Over the years hip-hop has produced a lot of characters. Flava Flav. Kool Keith. Redman. Old Dirty Bastard (RIP). Many animated personalities have graced us with their presence, but not many have been as colorful and charismatic as The Diabolical Biz Markie.
Marcel Theo Hall bka Biz Markie, was born and raised in New Jersey. Biz started rhyming in the early eighties and would eventually link up and join Marley Marl’s legendary Juice Crew. Biz’ connection with Marley would lead to a deal on Marley’s Cold Chillin’ imprint where he would release his first four albums Goin’ Off, The Biz Never Sleeps , I Need a Haircut, and All Samples Cleared!. Biz will forever be remembered for the “Just A Friend” record off of his second album The Biz Never Sleeps, as it has even been used in commercials in recent years. I’ve never heard any of Biz’ albums in their entirety, just the singles and joints they played on the radio back in the day.
I came across I Need a Haircut at a used CD store a few years ago. Anybody that digs in crates knows it’s rare to come across a used Biz Markie record, but on this lucky afternoon there sat a worried looking Biz Markie staring at me as Cool V prepared to cutoff his fake fro with a chainsaw on the album cover. Since the price was so reasonable, I couldn’t resist.
I Need a Haircut was a commercial failure, considering his previous album The Biz Never Sleeps was certified gold. But as I often say: poor album sales don’t always reflect the quality of the music.
To My Boys – The album open with Biz’ deejay (and cousin) Cool V shouting out all his peeps over a sick instrumental. Kind of an unusual way to kick things off, and even more strange considering this is not even Cool V’s album. They probably should have called it “To My Peeps” since he shoutsout both men and women.
Road Block – Biz kicks a story about a female he’s trying to bang out but her female friend keeps hanging around to purposely cock block. Vintage Biz Markie. Entertaining and I really dug his instrumental.
Let Go My Eggo – Biz’ instrumental leaves me visualizing a mad scientist in a lab somewhere cooking up some formula to destroy man kind. I like it. Biz is in boast mode as the song title is referring to his ego, even though he refers to the classic waffle brand during the hook. Speaking of the hook, it was pretty amusing to hear Biz censor his own curse words by mumbling over them. Solid joint.
What Comes Around Goes Around – Biz samples the same record from The Emotions that DJ Quik used earlier the same year for “I Got That Feelin”. Our host shares a story about a girl from high school that used to dis him but since he’s found fame and fortune she’s suddenly caught a bad case of the vapors. Well played.
Romeo & Juliet – Biz samples Bill Wither’s “Don’t You Want To Stay” turning it into a sick instrumental that he uses to give commentary on…Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? Wtf? Biz’ rhymes are pretty elementary but the instrumental is so sick it will help you overlook our host’s generic rhymes. Temporarily. It would have been interesting to hear his buddy Grand Daddy I.U. spit over this beat. With a different subject, of course.
T.S.R. (Toilet Stool Rap) – I remember having this song on a homemade mixtape I made by recording the Saturday night rap show off the local radio station KMOJ on to a cassette tape (remember those?). I still remember the sequencing of that tape: this song would fade out and Ed O.G.’s “Be A Father To Your Child” would come in right after it. The good old days. Biz will never blow you away with stellar rhymes but his class clown swag will keep you entertained. Classic Biz Markie
Busy Doing Nuthin’ – This was a hot mess.
I Told You – This is the cliché “no one believed in me but I made it anyway” song. Unfortunately not even Biz’ charismatic personality could help sell this one.
Buck Wild – Biz takes off the clown nose and gets serious as he spins a tale about a young thug and his life in the fast lane. This was mediocre at best.
Kung Fu – This one kind of covers the same territory as “I Told You”. Biz reminisces on his struggle getting into the game and his perseverance despite all the hurdles and opposition he faced along the way. The song title is a reference to the old seventies TV series of the same name, as Biz even sends David Carradine a shoutout (too soon?). I like Biz’ awkward instrumental, though I could have done without his nonsensical out of tune singing of the hook on this one.
Take It From The Top – Biz invites his crew members (Backspin, Capital T, Diamond Shell, and Fel) to spit verses for this posse joint and all parties involved fail miserably. Considering how dry the instrumental was they didn’t have much to draw inspiration from.
Alone Again – I imagine this is the song that Skee-Lo built his whole “woe is me” blueprint around. One of the great things about Biz Markie is he has always been comfortable enough to be vulnerable and humble in his songs. On “Alone Again” Biz copes with the bleak reality of being lonely, adding his comedic twist as he sings the hook in trademark Biz fashion. This song will forever mark the change in record sampling after Biz was sued for copyright infringement by Gilbert O’Sullivan for sampling his song “Alone Again (Naturally)” without permission. Biz lost the case and the song was actually removed from later pressing of I Need a Haircut. The instrumental is pretty nice, so at least the lawsuit was worth it (for the listener, at least).
On And On – Biz closes things out with a nonsensical but entertaining flow that ends with him going off the top of the dome. I love the free feel to this song. Biz throws all song formatting out the window (no formatted verses or hook) and raps until he has nothing left to say. You can tell that Biz is enjoying himself, and the feeling is infectious. This is the way hip-hop is supposed to feel. Great way to end the album.
Biz Markie will never be considered a great lyricist but his charisma, wit, comedic ability, and fun vibe makes listening to his rhymes enjoyable. On I Need a Haircut Biz couples his emcee talents with some solid production, (which is skill he’s often not given enough credit for) making the majority of I Need a Haircut an entertaining listen. Like most hip-hop albums I Need a Haircut has some songs that should have been left on the cutting room floor, but there is enough solid material on I Need a Haircut to make me want to go find and listen to the rest of Biz’ catalog.
A personal favorite of mine. Not only do I remember cassettes, I still make them. Biz proves you don’t have to be super lyrical to make a good album. He is a slept on producer and dj.