One of Beastie Boys‘ most beloved rarities is “Benny and the Jets,” a cover of the Elton John song featuring rapper Biz Markie on hilariously mumbled, out-of-tune vocals. The song — released on 1999 compilation Beastie Boys Anthology: The Sounds of Science — is a classic showcase for Markie, the rapper best known for 1989’s “Just a Friend,” who died Friday at 57.
Their loose, spelling-tweaked take on John’s 1973 tune developed through casual classic rock jamming, as Markie explained to Charleston City Paper in 2015.
Hear Beasties Boys and Biz Markie’s ‘Benny and the Jets’
“The way that came is me and the Beastie Boys and the Boo-Yaa Tribe was all playing basketball at the Beastie Boys studio, and after we got done playing basketball one of their boys, [Money] Mark, got on the piano and they just started playing rock songs,” he said. “And I was singing every rock song, and they were buggin’ out. I was singin’ like [sings], ‘Jeremiah was a Bullfrog’ and singin’ all them records, right? So people was buggin’ out, and they broke down ‘Bennie and the Jets,’ and I sang it.”
They also played the cover onstage over the years, including a 1998 take at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and a 2009 version at the Orange Peel in Asheville, N.C.
Markie and Beastie Boys had another classic rock-related collaboration: “The Biz vs. the Nuge,” a 33-second interlude that appeared on the latter group’s 1992 LP, Check Your Head. The track finds Markie singing a Beasties shout-out over the guitar-and-drums intro to Ted Nugent‘s 1977 song “Home Bound.”
Hear Beastie Boys and Biz Markie’s ‘The Biz vs. the Nuge’
“We stopped at my house for a while to look through records,” Beasties member Michael “Mike D” Diamond wrote in the group’s Sounds of Science companion book. “After looking through the Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and James Brown sections, the Biz pulled out a copy of Ted Nugent’s Cat Scratch Fever album, and said, ‘Yo, could we bring this down to the studio? I got something I want to do over this joint.’ After arriving at G-Son, The Biz asked if there was a candy store near the studio. A sack of candy was brought over from across the street. Then he put the Nugent record on, and two takes later it was done. The Biz then spent the rest of the evening making a mix tape for his flight back to New York, including singles by Billy Joel, Paul Simon, and Helen Reddy.”
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