Biz Markie ~ Goin Off (1988)

Posted on June 2, 2013


The Golden Era of rap, which began in 1987 and ended in the mid 1990’s, provided the artform with some of its greatest music; music created by artists who’d become iconic figures in the years to come. One can’t think of this period without giving a respectful nod to the Juice Crew, an all-star collective founded by radio jock Mr. Magic and legendary DJ-producer Marley Marl, who became the most formidable mic brigade in Hip Hop history. Included in the Juice Crew ranks were MC Shan, Craig G, and Tragedy Khadafi, three influential mic handlers from Long Island City, Queens; Big Daddy Kane and Masta Ace, two immensely talented poets from Brooklyn; Corona, Queens godfather Kool G Rap, the virtual inventor of thug rap; and Long Island City matriarch Roxanne Shanté, the first member of the crew to drop a record. Of all the luminaries the Juice Crew introduced to the Hip Hop universe, perhaps none was more memorable than the Crew’s eldest emcee; a man who brought flavor, personality, and comedic sensibility to both the Juice Crew and the rap world. He was, and is, the Diabolical One: Biz Markie.

Born in Harlem in 1964, Biz Markie (Marcel Hall) has roots that run as deep as Hip Hop itself. In the mid 1970’s, Biz’s family moved to the Long Island hamlet of Brentwood, where an adolescent Biz immersed himself in Brentwood’s flourishing street scene, and began to beat-box and rhyme with local crews. Through the late 70’s and early 1980’s, Biz traversed both L.I. and New York City; honing his skills through performances in various locales across Strong Island and the five boroughs, and by 1984, Biz set his sights on Marley Marl, a Long Island City beatsmith that Biz aspired to rock with. After showing up daily at Marley’s home base (Queensbridge Houses) to battle locals, Biz became a charter member of the Juice Crew. From 1984 through 1986, Biz proved to be an invaluable asset to the Crew: bringing a 16-year-old Big Daddy Kane into the fold in ’84, performing with Roxanne Shanté in 1985, and releasing his own EP (The Inhuman Orchestra) in ’86. By 1987, The Inhuman Orchestra had become a notable success in the New York Tri-State area; compelling the Diabolical One to record a full-length album. Biz Markie and Marley Marl hit the studio that fall; and by early ’88, they’d finished what became one of the tightest albums in rap’s greatest year, Biz Mark’s classic debut Goin’ Off.

Goin’ Off represents the first in a series of four masterworks from the Juice Crew in 1988. As he’d do on Long Live the Kane (Big Daddy Kane), Born to be Wild (MC Shan) and his own release In Control Vol. 1, Marley Marl reaches in his beat stock, and pulls out ten sterling soul-clap tracks to fill the album. Biz Markie, with the aid of Big Daddy Kane, Juice Crew vocalist TJ Swan, and his cousin (and DJ) Cutmaster Cool V, delivers a thoroughly enjoyable album, with vocal charisma and laugh-out-loud humor injected into each and every song. Big Daddy Kane’s prolific pen is behind a number of this album’s songs, including its opener “Pickin’ Boogers”. This song’s title says it all: it’s a comical cut that centers on a repulsive habit; where Biz vividly recalls adventures of the nasal variety, through admirably witty words penned by Kane, over a Marley Marl track that pairs a funky bass line with a Graham Central Station drum loop. The next cut “Albee Square Mall” is an ode to a popular (and now defunct) shopping center in downtown Brooklyn, and has Biz lamping at his second home; buying jewelry and Ballys, antagonizing security guards, and stuffing his face in the food court, while TJ Swan’s falsetto floats over the hook. “Biz Is Goin’ Off” is a tempered crowd rocker, with slow staccato drum kicks, and casual verbs from Biz Mark, who thrills the audience with his showmanship, as Marley Marl slips canned chants of Biz’s name into the background. “Return Of The Biz Dance” is a reprise of one of Biz’s earliest hits (“Biz Dance”), where Marley Marl borrows the crisp drums and woodwind splashes from Black Heat’s “Zimba Ku”, and Biz reintroduces his screwball dance to the masses, while a fist-pumping crowd eggs him on. And “Vapors”, the album’s biggest hit, is a banner moment in the careers of Marley Marl, Big Daddy Kane, and Biz Markie. Marley constructs one of his tightest tracks; a strutting instrumental built on the groove from James Brown’s “Papa Don’t Take No Mess”; Kane paints semi-biographic pictures with his pen, on the come-ups of several members of the Juice Crew; and Biz recites Kane’s words with verve, speaking of an illness that caused those that disparaged him, Kane, TJ Swan, and Cool V in the past to turn into brownnosers when they found success.

The second half of Goin’ Off is mostly a free-flow affair; that seems designed to keep you moving until the disc stops playing. “Make The Music With Your Mouth Biz” has a crackling beat similar to MC Shan’s “The Bridge”, along with piano sprinkles lifted from Isaac Hayes’ “Ike’s Mood”. This cut gives brief examples of why Biz Markie is called The Inhuman Orchestra; with Biz alternating between beat-boxing, ad-libs, and rhyming couplets, while TJ Swan implores Biz to show his skills. “Biz Dance, Pt. 1” is the original unveiling of Biz’ dance craze; featuring the Diabolical One rocking to a whimsical boom-bap track, and creating a dance that could put anyone that tries it in traction. “Nobody Beats The Biz” has a timeless quality; due in part to Biz’ nimble flow and quotable bars, but also to the nostalgic elements used to craft it, including a scratched break from Biz and Roxanne Shante’s ’85 single “Def Fresh Crew”, Marley Marl’s blending of a Lafayette Afro Rock Band drum line and a Steve Miller Band melody, and a parodied chorus from Biz and TJ Swan, that reworks the jingle for the electronics retailer The Wiz. “This Is Something For The Radio” has shuffling drums and a smooth bass line that recall Fab Five Freddy’s “Down By Law”, and finds Biz speaking in semi-drunken fashion, shouting out New York City, and talking slick with Marley Marl as the beat plays. And Cutmaster Cool V helps Biz close the show with “Cool V’s Tribute To Scratching”, a trunk-rattling scratchcapade set to samples from Melvin Bliss (“Synthetic Substitution”), Isaac Hayes (“Ike’s Mood”) and Bob James (“Take Me To The Mardi Gras”), where Biz exalts Cool V’s mixing skills, and then lets his cousin show and prove.

1988 would go down in history as the greatest year for quality rap music, and Goin’ Off was the perfect table setter for the rest of the annum. When it dropped that winter, the album became an instant hit in the United States; selling several hundred thousand copies, and briefly making Biz Markie the marquee name in the Juice Crew. Though his friend Big Daddy Kane would eclipse him that spring, when his own debut Long Live the Kane was released, Biz Markie nonetheless became one of rap’s most beloved and respected artists. Biz’ unique combination of humor and artistic integrity distinguished him among a peer group that included EPMD, Eric B & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions, and many other future legends, in addition to his Juice Crew brethren. A year after this album’s release, Biz garnered commercial success to go along with his critical acclaim; earning gold and platinum plaques for his 1989 release The Biz Never Sleeps, and the album’s first single “Just A Friend”. Through the 1990’s and into the 21st Century, Biz Markie continued to rep Hip Hop proudly; as a producer of acts like Kid Capri, Grand Daddy I.U. and Diamond Shell, and as an in-demand DJ and live performer. The Diabolical One has held it down for three decades, and his run began with Goin’ Off; a classic offering, from an all-time great.

To listen to Goin’ Off, click here.