Why was Biz Markie on Yo Gabba Gabba? How the rapper became a child's TV host

Leigh McManus July 17, 2021
Photo by Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for BACARDI

Why was Biz Markie on Yo Gabba Gabba? People are reflecting on the hip hop star’s varied career after news broke Saturday (17 July) that the 57-year-old had passed away.

Just A Friend rapper Biz Markie dead at 57

Biz Markie, the rapper, singer and actor behind the 1989 hit Just A Friend, died on Friday, 16 July in Baltimore, Maryland.

“It is with profound sadness that we announce, this evening, with his wife Tara by his side, hip hop pioneer Biz Markie peacefully passed away,” his representative Jenni Izumi said in a statement.

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Biz Markie and Yo Gabba Gabba perform on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in December 2013

“We are grateful for the many calls and prayers of support we have received during this difficult time. Biz created a legacy of artistry that will forever be celebrated by his industry peers and his beloved fans whose lives he was able to touch through music, spanning over 35 years.”

It was reported Biz passed away holding wife Tara Hallat’s hand at about 6.25pm local time.

“He leaves behind a wife, many family members and close friends who will miss his vibrant personality, constant jokes and frequent banter. We respectfully request privacy for his family as they mourn their loved one,” the rep’s statement continued.

What did the rapper die from?

TMZ reported in an exclusive that Markie died from complications connected with his diabetes.

The US outlet reported Markie, born Marcel Theo Hall, “died after a series of complications from diabetes that he’s been fighting for more than a year”.

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Markie, born Marcel Theo Hall, “died after a series of complications from diabetes”

TMZ stated Markie’s wife “held his hand as he took his last breath and the nursing staff was there to support his family, telling them how strong he was through his fight”.

The rapper was hospitalised last summer with an ailment related to his Type II Diabetes. 

At the time, rumours spread that the Just A Friend crooner was in a coma, but his rep confirmed to TMZ that wasn’t the case.

Why was Biz Markie on Yo Gabba Gabba?

So, how does a rapper who made his name beatboxing on the streets of Harlem find himself on a popular kid’s TV show?

In his obituary, the LA Times describe Markie as “an affable and lovable figure” and he is generally known as the Clown Prince Of Hip Hop – an affectionate nickname that alludes to his upbeat, goofy character.

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Snoop Dogg and Biz Markie pose with characters Plex and DJ Lance Rock during the Yo Gabba Gabba! There’s A Party In My City Live in California, November 2019

Perhaps, then, it’s no surprise Markie – who segued into acting with Men In Black II – made the move into children’s TV.

In 2007, in what Rolling Stone described as an “ideal gig for him”, he became a star on Yo Gabba Gabba, dropping the Beat Of The Day, a segment where he would beatbox.

During a 2013 interview with theGrio, Biz Markie talked about his role on Yo Gabba Gabba! and why he decided to get involved.

“I didn’t like what was on TV for the kids so a guy, Christian and Scott… we all got together and made Yo Gabba Gabba!” he said.

He was referring to co-creators Christian Jacobs and Scott Schultz. “He’s almost a human cartoon character,” Jacobs said of Markie in an interview with Oregon Live.

“Oh yeah, when little kids see me on the street with their parents, they’ll run up and grab me like I’m Barney the dinosaur or something,” Markie said to the same title.

Markie added he reinvented himself “for a new audience” and said his hip hop peers “think it’s ingenious” how he did it.

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Leigh is a 26-year-old journalist from the north of Ireland. He studied International Journalism at Liverpool John Moores University, where he earned a 2:1 grade. He has worked for Mail Online and has experience with the Liverpool Echo, Irish Mirror and SWNS. Leigh is also a huge music fan and has his own show on a community radio station.