EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the Biz Markie Just a Friend Foundation.
As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, director Sacha Jenkins puts the spotlight on an artist who did not have major beef with anyone. On Friday, Aug. 11, “All Up in the Biz,” a documentary about Biz Markie’s life, premieres, featuring a “who’s who” of New York hip-hoppers and others who pay respect to the late, legendary artist. The film is excellent, giving us the warm fuzzies that fans remembered about Biz, along with the ins and outs of how hip-hop changed the way the record industry operated.
On April 8, 1964, Marcel Theo Hall, the future Biz Markie, was born in Harlem, New York, and was raised in Brentwood on Long Island. His mother died when he was very young. His father could not care for him, so Biz lived in foster care, beginning in 1973 in the home of Eloise Parker, for whom he remained thankful throughout his life.
“All Up in the Biz” tells how Biz was a popular teen during his high school years.
Long Island was a hotbed for hip-hop talent. Biz would show up at various high schools that he did not attend and attract crowds with his “beatbox” skills. Jumping into rhyming challenges was easy because he was a jokester and not a threat. Biz met rapper Rakim at one of those impromptu high school visits.
The documentary explains that while his soon-to-be peers did not initially see his vision; Biz knew what he was doing. As his success grew, he brought other talented friends to the stage and recording gigs with him.
Director Jenkins allows audiences to understand why his subject earned the title of the “clown prince of hip-hop.” The production of “All Up in the Biz” combined archival footage, new interviews, musical interludes, animation, and puppetry.
As Biz’s health declined and he needed to be hospitalized, puppetry was used in the film to show the care he received from his wife, Tara Hall, doctors and nurses.
While the puppetry initially took adjusting to as an audience member, it became clear that the technique was used to honor Biz’s playful side while showing the effects of type 2 diabetes. Biz was in the hospital for a year from 2020 – 2021 during the height of COVID. He died on July 16, 2021, at the University of Maryland Medical Center-Midtown Campus in Baltimore.
After reviewing several directors, Hall knew Jenkins was the right person to tell her husband’s story.
“I picked Sacha Jenkins because he had a journalistic background,” said Hall, in an exclusive interview with The Washington Informer. “Because Biz compartmentalized his life, I needed someone to put Biz’s life in 100 minutes.”
Hall met Biz 20 years ago, but they did not marry until 2018, and they have a daughter named Averi. The delay in marriage was due to their entertainment careers, where they traveled extensively.
The widow also talked about how Biz was forever grateful for being raised in a loving foster home. He was always close with his foster siblings.
“We created the ‘Biz Markie Just a Friend Foundation’ designed to break the stigmatism of being raised in foster care. Also, a food pantry in Harlem is funded through our foundation,” said Hall, a Bowie, Maryland, resident.
Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, “All Up in the Biz,” honors the musical culture with a story about an artist that will forever be remembered for his contributions to hip-hop, as a producer, beatboxer, emcee, DJ, an actor, and a philanthropist. The film features Fat Joe, Big Daddy Kane, Rakim, Doug E. Fresh, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, Eric Sermon from EPMD, clothing designer Dapper Dan, Nick Cannon, Tracy Morgan, and others. A Showtime movie trailer https://youtu.be/hklSInDi5Rc teases what viewers will see when “All Up in the Biz” premieres on Aug. 11.