Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” Started Out As “You Must Be On Speed”
For the past 27 years ago Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” has been a cultural phenomenon. The ode to a dishonest love interest made its way to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 just a short time after its initial release, beating out Madonna and sitting right behind Phil Collins. Since then the song spawned a hit remake in 2002, played a central role in hilarious scenes from “Beavis and Butthead” and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, and received a Jimmy Fallon Live makeover when Jeff Goldblum performed it with Biz in 2010.
“Just a Friend” also snuck back onto the iTunes bestseller charts when it outperformed Kanye West and Kings of Leon in 2009 after appearing in an anti-drunk driving commercial from Heineken. And if you’ve ever been to a college bar or a wedding, you’ve sung along with Biz a few times whether you wanted to or not.
“I was like ‘Yo, this shit is a hit. You better fuck with it.”- Q-Tip
According to an interview with Q-Tip and rapper Skillz for the Hip Hop Confessions series, The Diabolical Biz’s biggest hit might have been a dud if not for some sage advice. As Tip explains in the video, Biz was working on his debut album at the same time A Tribe Called Quest was recording at Calliope Studios. When the two artists saw each other in hallway one day, Biz approached Tip and said, “Yo. You need to come inside, I got this dookie joint.”
Tip walked in the studio and Biz dropped the drums to “Just a Friend” while engineer Shane Faber played the piano. When the vocal came up, Q-Tip heard Biz signing, “You, you must be on speed” to the same melody as the now famous chorus. Unimpressed, Q-Tip told Biz, “N**** you better not call that shit that shit...‘You Must Be On Speed’?!?” Tip let the eccentric rapper know he sitting on a goldmine and implored him to come up with something more radio friendly. “I was like ‘Yo, this shit is a hit. You better fuck with it,’” Tip recalls in the video.
Biz went back to the drawing board and came up with his own interpolation of the original sample source, creating one of the most recognizable choruses of all time in the process. Despite Q-Tip giving it his stamp of approval, Biz was hesitant to use the now famous chorus because of its similarity to the original song he was sampling. Q-Tip assured him he was on to something, Biz decided to go with the revised hook, and the rest is history.
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