Biz Markie’s iconic hit “Just A Friend” is a prime example that technical skill isn’t everything when it comes to music. While the late rapper wouldn’t be considered by many to be a skilled singer in a traditional sense, his passionately sung hook on the song remains one of the most memorable in the history of recorded music. Markie’s producer/cousin DJ Cool V recently spoke about the moment he and Markie recorded that hook, and he paints picture of a heartwarming scene.
“People called me crazy for letting him do that record. I’m in the studio, he wanted to do it so bad, but I got to get the whole album done before the deadline. I was almost done except for maybe three or four records, because Biz didn’t like to stay in the studio. So, I made him fight and fight and do records and do records. He was coming along so good with the other records. I said, ‘OK, OK, you finally can do it.’
I got him in the booth and he was singing, and even though it might not be perfectly correct to anybody else, the feeling of it was good. He had his fist balled up and he was really trying. He was really, really crooning, and I said, ‘That’s it.’ And he had one take. Then he had another take that was not as good as the first one. So I took the first one and put it with the next one. So it’s the same one, twice. He did both of them and he did them very well and maximized it too. He did it as best he could do it — and it was good enough for me.
Everybody called us crazy, like, ‘Yo, you going to really let him do that?’ I said, ‘Man, he feeling it. I got a good feeling about this record.’ And we did it. It just took off. It morphed into something that we could never imagine.”
Cool V went on to note, however, that neither he nor Markie ever made any money from the song. Citing Markie signing “an incredibly bad contract” and other factors as the reason for that, he said, “The sweetness comes in that we were able to perform it for almost 31 years. And now comes the other side of it — we never made money off the record. I still haven’t got paid for that record. It trickled down. So, we never made money off the record. But, we made the money off the shows and we had a great performing career. But now it gets back to the bittersweet because every time I hear it, it’s going to remind me of Biz, but it’s also going to remind me of how I can’t make more money off of it. Everybody’s feeding their family off our work and we’ve never made money off that record.”
Revisit “Just A Friend” below.