Tuesday, May 06 2008 | 00:00

274Biz Markie has gone from being the beatbox “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” to platinum selling rapper, legal landmark and now one of the most in-demand black DJs in the world, backing Will Smith, spinning at the Super Bowl, the NBA All-Star Game, The Grammy’s – wherever the party is needed. The Biz has DJed parties for Kobe Bryant, Berry Gordy, Shaq, Diana Ross, P. Diddy and Jermaine Dupri among others.

“I’m just trying to be the best DJ I could ever be,” he says earnestly. “I moved to Maryland and started making a nice little living DJing. So I decided to stay there for a while. I spend most of my year DJing on the road. I like to play the old school. Not just New York old school. If I’m in Houston I like to play their old school. If I’m in Iowa I like to play their old school.”

An old school legend himself, Biz has been collecting records since junior high, before he hooked up with producer Marley Marl and made immortal classics like “Make The Music With Your Mouth.” But back then, at his home in Long Island, Biz’s parents were concerned about his rap ambitions. His brothers and sisters were pursuing respectable careers as doctors, lawyers and police chiefs. Why was Biz going around making weird noises? And how could this class goof-off still be smoking his math tests? Baffled, they sent him to the psychiatrist. “They thought, ‘He must be cheating or something.'”, says Biz. “The doctor just had me look at ink blots and dumb stuff like that. I used to go there, do what I had to do, Moms pick me up and I’d steal the People Magazines. They thought, ‘He must be straight crazy.'”

While the rest of the worlds may think Biz is crazy, he’s one of the few rappers comfortable at being himself. No image consultant required. Just maybe a costume change. Only Biz could increase his street cred by hanging out at the Apollo in drag, long before Dennis Rodman went for the eye shadow and Martin went She-Nay-Nay. “Everybody bit that style,” shrugs Biz. “I used to go to Apollo and clubs with a dress on and a wig and glasses. I did that before Martin and Jamie Foxx, before Dennis Rodman came out. I still got pictures.” You mean on stage? “I’m talking about regular public.” They recognize you? “They know who I am!”

Vintage toy collectors certainly know who he is. During his DJ travels, while searching for records to turn the party out, Biz has gotten into serious lunch box collecting as well as old portable electronic football games, wooden airplanes, GI Joes and Rock Em Sock Em Robots. “It’s just like records,” he says. “I know exactly the places to look. You don’t want people to burn your spots out.”

But it’s not like the vapor-chasers wouldn’t recognize hip hop’s most popular action figure. You’ve seen Biz on Sprite commercials, VH-1 Valentines or just bugging out with Will Smith in Men In Black 2. And just two years ago, you heard Biz’s tune-def platinum hit “Just A Friend” remade by Mario into yet another anthem.

Biz remains one of rap’s most beloved celebrities even though he hasn’t had an album out in nearly a decade. His recording hiatus was partly due to the fact he discovered a new career in DJing. “I wanted to go back to the essence and learn to DJ. I got bored of rap because rap wasn’t what it was before.”

Not for long. Somehow the Diabolical has found time to bless us with Weekend Warrior, a new album that finds him intrepid as ever, not afraid to rip the mic, act a fool and umm, pose with a lizard in his lap. “I’m not going to do an album just to do it. I haven’t had that feeling until now. It’s gotta feel right.”

Hip hop’s current mass appeal will only feed Biz’s ever-expanding popularity. While a lot’s changed in hip hop since his fabled days with Marley’s Juice Crew, Biz’s patented playful but clever flow sounds better than ever. The lead single, “Let Me C U Bounce,” will make everyone feel alright, an exotic booty shaker”Biz style. On “Do UR Thang,” Biz taps P. Diddy and remakes the Wild Style Theme while “Friends” finds Biz heartsick and facing the dreaded ‘F’ word in a different context.

“Another one of my favorites is ‘Chinese Food.’ I love to eat shrimp fried rice so I’m going to make a record called Chinese Food. It’s like a nice freestyle record. I’m just bugging out on it.” “I need a couple egg rolls in my neighborhood that’s good.”

Sharing production duties with underground heroes Paul Nice and Megahertz, Biz’s adventurous beatmaking remains undaunted by his well-publicized 1991 sample lawsuit with Gilbert O’Sullivan. A ruling which changed the sound of the rap industry, from P. Diddy paying big loot for clearance to indie producers being forced to new realms of creativity and camouflage.

“We got like 20 records that we couldn’t clear because some of the people we sampled wanted ridiculous amounts of money and we ain’t used that much of the record, just a boom (starts beat boxing). They want like 50,000 just for that? Y’all crazy. I remember in the beginning before I got sued, we sampled anything and we didn’t even pay nobody.” Tracks that didn’t make the cut include a remake of Cheryl Lynn’s classic “To Be Real,” a Biz dance version of the “Soul Bossanova” (the uber-recognizable Austin Powers theme) and “Haters,” an amazing track that bobs along to a Paul McCartney loop.

This didn’t discourage the Biz. As it stands, Weekend Warrior remains a bold venture. Tracks like “Get Down” dig deep in the funk while “Used To Be Da Man” hijacks Lionel Ritchie and the old school ode, “Throw Back,” ingeniously uses Little River band’s hit “Reminiscing”, another example of Biz’s obsession with classic pop songs. “I was trying to rap Whodini style on that one,” confirms Biz.

It’s about time for a new album by rap’s last renaissance man. Biz gorges at the pop culture buffet, spitting it back out funky and wiping frowns from here to the Albee Square Mall.

With his legendary “Old School” status, the forthcoming album, and a growing global fan-base, the future is his. Nobody beats the Biz!

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