By Ryan Faughnder
8:44 AM PDT, September 10, 2013
Watch your back, "Subway" Jared. Zevia, a Los Angeles maker of sugar-free soda, has found an unlikely spokesman in rapper and kids’ show star Biz Markie.
The goofball hip-hop artist, best known for the 1989 song “Just a Friend” and a recurring role on the Nick Jr. show "Yo Gabba Gabba," weighed about 385 pounds just a few years ago. "I just kept eating,” he said Monday. “I’d eat, eat, eat, not exercise, go to sleep, eat and eat."
When told he had high blood pressure and borderline diabetes, he decided he needed to adjust his lifestyle. "I looked up in the mirror and said I had to make a change if I was going to continue to live.”
He has lost about 140 pounds since, he said, and he partly credits cutting out sugar-filled sodas and switching to Zevia’s brand, which uses a plant-based zero-calorie sweetener called stevia. The company touts its concoctions as an alternative to artificial sweeteners.
It’s worth noting that Zevia is not the first company endorsed by Markie, who hasn’t released an album since 2003’s “Weekend Warrior.” In 2009, he starred in some promotional videos for a tech company called TuneUp Media, which cleans up people's digital music libraries, and he’s also done commercial work for Radio Shack.
Markie’s latest endorsement continues a well-documented tradition of rappers backing consumer products, including various liquors, caffeinated fizzy drinks, automobiles and sneakers, not to mention MC Hammer’s 2009 spot for Cash 4 Gold.
On "Yo Gabba Gabba," Markie demonstrates basic beatboxing rhythms in a segment called "Biz’s Beat of the Day." Markie said he met Zevia CEO Paddy Spence backstage at a Yo Gabba Gabba concert.
Markie says his endorsement fits with the social message of "Yo Gabba Gabba," which has pushed healthy eating with songs like "Party in My Tummy."
Zevia appears to be gaining traction on supermarket shelves. The company says its soda is sold in more than 15,000 stores and generated sales of 17 million cans in the second quarter of this year, up 60% from the same period in 2012.
The soda switch has helped Markie keep his weight under control while traveling 250-300 days out of the year, he said. "Don't get it twisted, I still cheat; I just cheat less,” he said.
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