Twenty years after Biz Markie released the catchy song “Just a Friend” with warbled vocals and an unforgettable chorus, the crowd still goes wild. Granted the 45 year-old rapper/DJ/comedian born Marcel Theo Hall is likely tired of the song, but that one moment in his career packed the people into Pure nightclub on October 6, and there were smiles all around.
The last time I saw Biz live was about seven years ago. I was attending S.U.N.Y. Purchase College in New York and they were holding their annual music festival. Biz also deejayed that night, though with more humorous results. Lifting up his t-shirt and stretching it over his head and around his neck, he proceeded to put his rather ample belly on the turntable and scratch the record without hands. That’s putting a gut to good use.
Biz kick started a mini DJ set in Pure’s main room around midnight, throwing on some old school hip-hop beats with soul, and working in some country samples.
“If you’re 21 and over make some noise in here!” (Perhaps he was in on a new, creative ploy to trap underage clubbers that may have snuck in.) Biz then narrowed the cheering section to East Coasters and then New York and New Jersey natives. Only minimal cheers came when he called for Vegas, so it seemed to be a tourists’ kind of night. Biz also gave props to those in music that have recently passed: DJ AM (who was once a resident at Pure), Michael Jackson, Mr. Magic and Roc Raida.
While his set started out strong and unique, it shifted to the more commercial top 40 you’d typically hear at Pure any given night of the week. A few mixing boo-boos snuck into the mix, as well. Biz won the partiers back, however, when he left the safety of the DJ booth to launch into a three-song performance, complete with his legendary beatboxing, and, of course, the crowd pleasing “Just a Friend.” Everyone in the building joined in and howled along: “You! You got what I neeeeeeed. But you say he’s just a friend. And you say he’s just a friend. OH BABY YOOOOOOOUUUUUUU…”
Biz has done a lot of things in the music business since that top 10 single in 1989, but it’s that unforgettable track that keeps him and us coming back for more. For a few minutes at least last night, the packed main room at Pure reminded us that great songs and drunken sing-a-longs will never go out of style.