Hip-hop pioneer DJ Mark the 45 King, whose iconic tracks have been sampled repeatedly by the music genre, has died. He was 62.
The record producer’s manager confirmed Thursday in an e-mail to The Times on Thursday that “he passed.” No additional information, including his cause of death, was made available. DJ Premier of rap duo Gang Starr announced Thursday on Instagram that the Bronx-born producer died Thursday morning, just days after his 62nd birthday:
Mark the 45 King, real name Mark Howard James, was known for his signature track, “The 900 Number.” He produced famous tracks “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” for Jay-Z, “Ladies First” and “Wrath of My Madness” for Queen Latifah and“Stan”for Eminem. And “900 Number” was re-sampled frequently, with appearances on DJ Chad Jackson‘s “Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked)” in 1990 and DJ Kool‘s call-and-response track “Let Me Clear My Throat” in 1996. James’ pseudonym — the 45 King — was a result of “his ability to make beats using obscure 45 RPM records,” according to the biography published on his official website. (No word of his death was made available on the site as of press time.)
He began deejaying in New Jersey in the mid-1980s. In 1987, he gained notoriety for his iconic breakbeat track “The 900 Number” — a song that featured a looping baritone sax solo from Marva Whitney’s “Unwind Yourself.” That same year, he signed with Tuff City Records and was given a production deal. James also helped other members of his famous crew, dubbed the Flavor Unit, including Chill Rob G, Lakim Shabazz, Apache and Queen Latifah. “The Equalizer” star Latifah, known as the First Lady of Hip-Hop, helped James get his big break in 1989 when she signed with Tommy Boy records and released “All Hail the Queen,” an album that featured extensive production work by James. Other Flavor Unit artists would later sign with Tommy Boy, with James contributing to their albums.
For DJ Premier, James created an entry point that led to his successful career.
“Red Alert was playing ‘Bust a Move Boy’ cutting it up crazy and I heard Guru’s voice wondering who the f— is Gang Starr? I immediately went and bought the 12inch single to discover the label Wild Pitch Records. From there my friend Carlos Garza in Houston, TX. told Stu Fine who owned Wild Pitch about me and I connected with them in 1988 when Guru was looking for a new DJ and a permanent Producer.”