Biz Markie is still "Just a Friend" to the ladies, but the single rapper's love of children has pushed him back into the spotlight with a starring role on cult kiddie hit Yo Gabba Gabba.
Set to go on tour with DJ Lance Rock, Brobee, Plex, and the rest of the party this summer, Biz gave The Stir a look at what makes him the "pied piper" of the kiddie set and clued us in on his favorite member of the Gabba Gang.
You're kicking off the tour at Bethel Woods, the Woodstock site. What's it like for a performer to play on musical hallowed ground?
Oh, oh. For me performing at Woodstock is like incredible. Even if it's in this form, I can't believe I'm going to be at Woodstock where Jimi Hendrix and all them was at.
Tell me a little about how you ended up doing Yo Gabba Gabba? You don't have kids, right?
Nah. I've got nieces and nephews though.
So how did they approach you?
My boys is the creators, you know what I mean. They asked me to come on and do the dance of the day, and my back was hurting because I DJ'd all night the night before. So I said well, why don't I just do Biz's Beat of the Day, see how it works out? So I made up the Beat of the Day, and it stuck and people went crazy!
Why is beat boxing something kids love to do?
Because it's a pure, natural way to make music without no instruments or anything. It's just fun!
It is a lot of fun! Do you find the kids do exactly what you do or do they go off and do their own thing?
They do exactly what I do. It's like I'm the pied piper!
What's Biz 4 Da Kidz?
We're developing something where it's a challenging, interactive thing for kids. There's nothing really out there for kids these days.
Can you tell us what's kept you with Yo Gabba Gabba?
I told Christian and all the ones who created it, "No matter what, I'm gonna be down with Yo Gabba Gabba." It's something that teaches the kids; it's growing with the kids. It ain't just for little kids. It grows with the kids from 6 or 7 on down because there's new kids being born every year.
Who's your favorite character?
Brobee! Everybody loves Brobee! Do you find it's funny that the parents recognize you from your "Just a Friend" days and the kids have absolutely no clue what that is?
It's funny because some of the kids know some of it, some kids don't, but since I did the Heineken commercial they know the record but they don't know it's me.
The thing is it's an even scream when I come out because it's the grownups and the kids!
What do you like about working with the kids?
It's just kids, kids is honest. Kids is beautiful. It's just, kids are just a sponge.
You said beat boxing is fun, but why is this a good age to teach them about music?
Since I've been blessed, it's on me to teach the kids. It's something that's positive to teach the kids, natural and positive.
When did you get into music?
I've been into music since I was a little kid. My pops used to play saxophone and play all the instruments; he's a jazz musician.
What'd he think when you decided to go the rap route?
You know everybody was against it! My moms and pops were against it.
How has music changed your life?
Music changed my life a whole bunch. The reason music changed my life is because it showed me that I could go into any avenue with what I do. My style of rap was so unorthodox where I could rock with the Beastie Boys or I could rock with a hardcore group or I could rock with the kids! It's like I'm the pope.
You're the pope and the pied piper?
Yeah, I'm the Pope Piper!
Yo Gabba Gabba will have a Party in Your City this fall -- they start the tour with Biz Markie on August 27 at Bethel Woods Center for the Arts in Bethel, New York.
Image via Neilson Barnard