The extremely shy and usually elusive Irish born singer/songwriter Gilbert O'Sullivan made a rare public speaking appearance over the weekend and addressed his landmark court case against Biz Markie that forever changed the direction of hip-hop music. Fielding questions Sunday afternoon at the Branchage Film Festival in Jersey, UK, following a screening of the Aidan McCarthy directed bio-doc Out On His Own: Gilbert O'Sullivan, the artist, who scored a series of hits in the UK (and to a slightly lesser degree in the US) in the early 70's including "Nothing Rhymed," "Alone Again (Naturally)," "Clair," and "Get Down," gave his side of the story of the notorious 1991 court case that he won but also gained the ire of countless hip-hop artists and fans alike.
Gilbert O'Sullivan "Alone Again (Naturally)"
The landmark case, settled in a New York court, was the first sampling lawsuit to go to court and became historic because it forever altered the course of recording hip-hop music. Up until then hip-hop artists were accustomed to freely borrowing snippets of previous recordings, and pretty much sampled whatever they wanted to. If challenged they tended to settle out of court, or in many instances the rap artist would ask permission (sometimes offering money) right before using a particular sample. This was actually the case with Biz Markie and Gilbert O'Sullivan, but things did not go as hoped for by the Biz and his O'Sullivan sampled song, "Alone Again (Naturally)."
Biz Markie, who came to fame during hip-hop's golden era as the beatboxing rapper with a sharp wit & comedic streak, initially won fans with such records as "Just A Friend," "Vapors," Pickin' Boogers," and "Make The Music WIth Your Mouth, Biz." But these days he is better known for his movie and TV roles, including playing the beatboxing alien in Men In Black II or his ongoing entertaining part in the Nickelodeon TV kids show Yo Gabba Gabba! where he does his short but fun "Beat of The Day" segment.
Along with the Fat Boys and Doug E Fresh, Biz Markie ranks as one of the early ambassadors of beatboxing, credited with bringing the hip-hop art form to the masses. In the music history books the Biz will also be immortalized in the early 1990's landmark sampling court case with Gilbert O'Sullivan which would forever alter (read: stifle) the direction that hip-hop production would thereafter take.
Born Marcel Hall in Harlem, and later living in Long Island, Biz Markie started out beatboxing and rhyming in the early eighties while just barely into his teens. But it would be his beatboxing skills specifically that would first get him noticed. Thanks to crossing paths with then up-and-coming producer Marley Marl in the mid-eighties, he got a break doing his human beatbox routine for Marl related Juice Crew acts like MC Shan and Roxanne Shante, with whom he would make his rap world debut, appearing on her 1986 record "Def Fresh Crew." That same year he released his debut 12", the EP "Make The Music With Your Mouth, Biz" on Prism Records. Two years later this Marley Marl produced record would be followed by his debut (and best) album, 1988's Goin' Off. His consequent three albums, 1989's The Biz Never Sleeps, 1991's I Need a Haircut, and 1993's All Samples Cleared! were not produced by Marley Marl and consequently never reached the pinnacle of greatness that his debut did.