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Band of the Week: Biz Markie

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MEET THE BAND: Biz Markie (vocals, turntables, beatbox)

OLD SCHOOL: Markie grew up in Long Island listening to early hip-hop. "The first tape I ever heard was Busy Bee Starski. That inspired me to get into hip-hop," Markie says. "I got rejected. That's what 'The Vapors' is about. I said I was going to show them, and it was do-or-die for me when it comes to making it in the business." Because he couldn't afford a tape deck, Markie learned to create his own music by beatboxing. "I just made it up in 1977," he says about learning to beatbox. "I just did beats with my mouth, and people thought I was crazy. I made up my way and Doug E. [Fresh] made up his way and Buffy made up his way. That's why all three of us don't sound like nobody."

THE DEBUT ALBUM: In 1988, Markie released his debut album, Goin' Off, on Cold Chillin' Records. The album was a hit, and Warner Bros. would absorb the label to give its artists wider distribution and bigger recording budgets. "[Goin' Off] was fun because I was hungry at the time. I tried to make each record as a single. A lot of singles came off that record." With its followup album, 1989's The Biz Never Sleeps, Markie says he wanted to shift musical directions. "I wanted every record to be totally different," he says. It delivered the single "Just a Friend," a ballad that finds Markie alternating between rapping and singing. "Instead of fighting somebody, I put the pen to the paper," he says of the tune. "Pain to the pen! Pain to the pen!"

A HEALTHIER APPROACH: Markie, who suffers from diabetes, recently embarked on what he describes as a "40-day reset" and changed his diet. "I measured my food and ate more vegetables and less processed stuff," he says. "I still eat candy bars. I cheat a little bit, but I stick to the diet."

WHY YOU SHOULD HEAR HIM: Markie's personality comes across loud and clear in his guest vocals on the Beastie Boys cover of Elton John's "Bennie and the Jets." "The Beastie Boys are my brothers and it's like I'm Billy Preston to the Beatles," he says. "They're the most talented group of people I've ever seen. They know hip-hop in and out and they know how to play different instruments. They just have their way of doing things, and they made me look at hip-hop a different way." Markie now often DJs and says it's his new passion. "I got bored with rap," he says. "I challenged myself to DJ. The challenge is going into new markets and learning the markets. I go off the crowd."

WHERE YOU CAN HEAR HIM: bizmarkie.com.

WHERE YOU CAN SEE HIM: Biz Markie headlines the inaugural Fresh Fest Cleveland that takes place from noon to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7, at Rid-All Farm and Otter Park.

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