Biz Markie, well known as the writer of possibly the most feel-good song of all time, “Just A Friend,” died a few months ago, shocking the music world. Nobody can perform the song as endearingly as he did, but the Emmy Awards homage to him and the song was nonetheless wonderful.
The show opened with presenter Cedric The Entertainer delivering a monologue about the events of the year in a living room set. The song’s signature piano melody kicks in behind him as he begins to speak about friendship, then the pre-taped part transitions to Cedric live on stage, rapping over the song. The renowned hook is then sung by Mandy Moore, Anthony Anderson, and others before LL Cool J emerges from the audience to rap over the beat. The second verse begins with Lil Dicky’s lyrics regarding television and this year’s candidates, before Rita Wilson takes over the rest of the stanza with a surprisingly effective flow. The fact that everyone in attendance was so enthusiastic about the song was perhaps the most moving aspect of the tribute, as it demonstrated how amazing “Just A Friend” is, and how exceptional Markie was, at lighting up a room.
DJ Cool V, Markie’s cousin and producer, recently reflected on recording the song’s hook with the late rapper, stating, “I got him in the booth and he was singing, and even though it might not be flawless to everybody else, the feeling of it was good.” He was trying his hardest with his fist balled up. 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.”