Review and photographs by Kirsten Ferguson
“For those that don’t know, I’m one of the originators of the human beatbox – me and Doug E. Fresh,” said rapper Biz Markie when he came out onstage for a quick but charged set at Club Vapor, the swanky two-level nightclub next to the Saratoga Casino and Raceway’s flashing, slot machine-filled gaming floor.
The opening DJ – club regular DVDJ Dread – had warmed up the crowd with video-enhanced snippets of R&B and hip-hop classics, everything from Positive K’s “I Got a Man” to Salt-n-Pepa’s “Shoop.” Then Biz Markie’s longtime DJ (and tour manager/cousin) Cool V came out, first paying tribute to Run-D.M.C.’s slain DJ Jam Master Jay before mixing a “little history lesson” of old school hip-hop, including Doug E. Fresh’s prototype “The Show” and LL Cool J’s “Rock the Bells.”
So the night was primed for nostalgia even before the Biz arrived onstage in old school Adidas sneakers to start off the show with a demonstration of his unparalleled beatboxing credentials. On “Biz Is Goin’ Off” and “Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz” – both songs from his 1988 debut “Goin’ Off” – he added some creative tongue-popping, mouth-blowing percussion, even holding the microphone up against his throat or head to enhance the effects.
Markie’s a virtuoso beatboxer for sure, a skill he regularly displays on the children’s show “Yo Gabba Gabba” during his “Biz’s Beat of the Day” segments. His singing, on the other hand, is unabashedly poor – albeit in a charming and loveable way – and Markie is notable for singing on his tracks back when most rappers didn’t. During “Let Me Turn You On,” he roused the Vapor crowd to join him in singing along to the sampled refrain from McFadden & Whitehead’s irresistible disco hit “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now.”
“I’d like to say rest in peace to Barry White… Teena Marie, Etta James. I’d like to say rest in peace to my man right here, Rick James,” said Markie before leading the crowd in another sing-along, this time to James’ “Mary Jane.” That wasn’t it for memorial tributes to departed R&B greats. “I’d like to say rest in peace to James Brown and to this man. He was my favorite,” Markie said next in homage to Michael Jackson before busting into the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back.”
Although a few of Markie’s best-known songs – including, regrettably “Pickin’ Boogers” – didn’t make it onto the short Club Vapor set list, he didn’t disappoint with his last two: “The Vapors,” his song about people who only treat you nice when you’ve got money, and “Just a Friend,” his painfully sweet hit tune about getting romantically played.
BIZ MARKIE SET LIST
Biz Is Goin’ Off
Make the Music with Your Mouth, Biz
Nobody Beats the Biz
Let Me Turn You On
Mary Jane (Rick James)
I Want You Back (Jackson 5)
Just a Friend