For those keeping track at home file this one after All Hail The Queen.
After reviewing I Need A Haircut and finding it pretty entertaining, I made mention of getting a hold of the rest of Biz Markie’s catalog, and by the end of this week I will have successful tracked down and/or stumbled upon all 4 of Biz Markie’s first four albums (I’m not too concerned with hearing his last album Weekend Warriors, but I’m sure I’ll run across it eventually). So today’s post marks (no pun intended) the beginning of my review of the rest of The Diabolical’s back catalog.
The Biz Never Sleeps is the sophomore album from hip-hop’s first court jester. It is Biz Markie’s most successful album to date on the strength of his biggest hit and one of the most commercially successful songs in hip-hop history (more on that in a minute). Like I Need A Haircut, The Biz Never Sleeps was entirely produced by Biz with a co-production credit going to his cousin and deejay Cool V.
Without further adieu lets get this
circus album under way…
Dedication – As he would later do on I Need A Haircut, the Biz opens The Biz Never Sleeps with a shoutout track or as he refers to it as a “dedication record”. The instrumental is solid but it sounds a little too somber to be giving shoutouts to those still in the land of the living. With all the recent controversy surrounding Drake not writing his own rhymes, it was kind of interesting to hear Biz shoutout Big Daddy Kane for penning some of his shit (most famously “The Vapors”). I wonder if Kane wrote anything for The Biz Never Sleeps since he’s not credited in the liner notes.
Check It Out – Over a funky bass line and mid tempo groove Biz proves that before Trick Daddy and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, he was the first hip-hopper to love the kids. Over the course of 3 verses Biz talks to the youth about the importance of staying in school and away from drugs. Normally when these topics are covered in hip-hop the artist tends to come off corny. Biz doesn’t completely escape sounding cheesy but he fares better than the many emcees who have tried to inspire the youth over the years.
The Dragon – This is vintage Biz Markie. Over a sick sample of Baby Huey’s “Hard Times” (which has been used a few different times over the years (I know someone from the Wu-Tang used it, though I can’t recall who or what song at the moment) Biz discusses the dreaded “dragon”. The dragon is code name for body odor, be it the hair, the breath, the pits, the junk, or feet. Good stuff.
Spring Again – I believe this was released as the second single from The Biz Never Sleeps. Over a feel good slightly disco like groove that samples no less than 5 different songs and ironically evokes summertime vibes, Biz discusses the wonderful weather spring brings and relationships. Of course he leaves his signature on the song with his humorous singing of the chorus. Nicely done.
Just A Friend – In case you hadn’t figured it out by now this is the song I was referring to in the intro about being a commercial success. If you’ve never heard this song before you must live under a rock as it’s been used in commercials over the years and I’m sure you can catch it playing on some radio station or tv show somewhere in the world on a daily basis; hell, I even heard it playing at the casino this past weekend. For those not familiar with it: Biz borrows handsomely from Freddie Scott’s “(You) Got What I Need” as he spins a tale about a college girl named Blah, Blah, Blah, who claims she doesn’t have a man, just a “friend”, until Biz goes to visit Blah, Blah, Blah at her dorm and catches her in a lie. Biz’ out of tune singing of the chorus rockin’ the Amadeus wig in the video just adds to the classicness of this song.
She’s Not Just Another Woman (Monique) – Over a soulful instrumental Biz reminisces about a girl he’s loved since childhood and the pleasant surprise he gets when he bumps into her years later after they’re both all grown up. Biz really struggles with his flow on this one but no one buys a Biz Markie album to hear mesmerizing flow and content anyway, so he gets a pass.
Mudd Foot – For the second time in as many posts I get to mention Bill Cosby. This time it’s because Biz names his dance (which he apparently thought was going to sweep the nation) after Muddfoot Brown who was the old man who gave advice to the Cosby Kids on Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert cartoon series. Biz samples a portion of Muddfoot’s theme music for the instrumental and it may be the sickest instrumental on the entire album. Really, it’s that good. Who would have thought Bill Cosby would have this many connections to hip-hop.
A Thing Named Kim – If this were released today it would be called “Katelyn Jenner” (on second thought, with all the political correctness and sensitivity in this day an age, maybe not). Over a mid-tempo but hard instrumental (Downtown Science would later use the same sample on their record “Catch The Wave”) Biz repaints an evening at the club that drinks and dimmed lights almost cause him to make a terrible mistake. Hi-larious!
Me Versus Me – This is apparently supposed to be a battle between Biz’ beatbox (which works as the instrumental) and his rhymes. His first verse was kind of nice, but from their on things get progressively worse, so clearly the beatbox wins this battle. While the song is only decent, it was kind of refreshing to hear Biz spit real freestyle rhymes as the song closes.
My Man Rich – One of the rare serious moments in Biz Markie’s catalog. Over a somber instrumental Biz reminisces over his childhood friend Rich, who had good intentions but got caught up in the fast life and fell victim to the streets. Biz’s flow has never been tight but it completely collapses on this one. Maybe he was overcome with emotion when recording it, I’m not sure, but it’s almost embarrassing.
I Hear Music – Over a smooth soulful groove Biz discusses the legitimacy of hip-hop as an art form and declares that it’s here to stay. Over 25 years later hip-hop is bigger and more relevant than ever, so it’s save to say he was right. This was nice.
Biz In Harmony – Hot garbage.
Things Get A Little Easier – The Biz closes with a public service announcement about the dangers of crack. Over a solid mid tempo instrumental Biz paints the picture of three different subjects: subject 1 is the crack dealer who ends up getting busted and doing time, and the final two subjects are once productive and attractive women turned out by the crack, affectionately known as crackheads. He brings in a sick saxophone sample and invites some kids in to sing the hook, which was a nice touch. Solid way to close the album.
The Biz wins again. Despite his limited flow (that sound downright awful at times on this album) the Biz is able to create a solid album on the strength of his entertaining subject matter mixed with charisma, comic relief, and quality production. Over the course of 13 songs there is really only one moment that I felt the urge to hit the skip button. The Biz Never Sleeps may be remembered by casual fans as the album with “Just A Friend” but it has so much more to offer than that as their a handful of much stronger songs on the album.
The artwork for The Biz Never Sleeps comically portrays Biz Markie as a mad scientist mixing chemicals as if he’s in search of the perfect formula. The Biz Never Sleeps may not be perfect but Biz definitely found a winning formula to keep the listener entertained.