Markie’s mostly good-humoured second studio set has stood up to the test of time.
Adam Kennedy 2012
When a hip hop veteran goes misty eyed about the genre's golden age, it's a fair shot that Biz Markie features high in their reminiscing. Packed with high school joker cheek and twinkle-eyed positivity, the New Yorker rose to late-1980s prominence largely off the back of this sophomore set. Decent reason, then, to reanimate an out-of-print opus.
Markie has endured more than his fair share of ups and downs since the original 1989 release of The Biz Never Sleeps, from Celebrity Fit Club and Hollywood movie roles to a game-changing sample clearance lawsuit with unlikely adversary Gilbert O'Sullivan. But this reissue is a timely reminder of skills that helped transform the man dubbed hip hop's clown prince into a true rapper's rapper.
After the face-slappingly self-explanatory superfluous verbal diarrhoea of Dedication, “the diabolical” Biz, as he christens himself here, gets down to business. Demonstrating an amiable ease for throwing down loveable lines about feeling “like a simpleton when you get expelled,” the stay-in-school public address of Check It Out encapsulates his mode of attack right off the bat.
The Dragon is similarly representative, chock with dumb 'n' fun lines on less-than-fragrant acquaintances. For all the basic charm within a slew of endearingly puerile rhymes, however, the real realisation of Biz's skills don't arrive until signature tune Just a Friend, his gloriously off-key chorus crooning like a pining lost soul classic after a beer-soaked night on the tiles.
From there, among polite self-aggrandising (Me Versus Me) and eccentric calls to the dancefloor (Mudd Foot), he does occasionally stray off-piste a little. Most notable: less-than-politically-correct punchline fest A Thing Named Kim, a hyper-silly tale of, in the words of Aerosmith, a dude that looks like a lady.
Five concluding bonus cuts don't entirely add to the re-up value, merely comprising alternative cuts of Just a Friend and Spring Again. The album's relatively hard-to-find status alone, however, proves justification for digging up The Biz Never Sleeps. And, on the whole, it stands the test of time, albeit almost quaintly in light of the ire-spewing, ice-moving gangstas that followed.