Mark Howard James, popularly known as The 45 King or DJ Mark the 45 King, was an iconic figure in the world of hip hop. Hailing from The Bronx, New York, he began his journey in the mid-1980s and soon became renowned for his unique beats, crafted primarily from obscure 45 RPM records.
Early Career and Rise to Fame:
The 45 King shot to prominence with his breakthrough track “The 900 Number” in 1987. This track, which looped a baritone sax solo from Marva Whitney’s “Unwind Yourself” (1968), became his trademark piece. His association with Tuff City Records began in the same year, marking the start of an illustrious career.
His talent was not limited to producing; he was a maestro in using turntables, earning accolades for his DJing skills. His pseudonym, “the 45 King,” is a testament to his knack for crafting beats from rare 45 RPM records.
Pivotal Contributions & Collaborations:
The 45 King was instrumental in the success of the Flavor Unit crew, which comprised several prominent hip-hop artists, including Chill Rob G, Lakim Shabazz, Apache, and Queen Latifah. His most notable work from this period was the production for Queen Latifah‘s album “All Hail the Queen,” which critics laud as one of his best.
His influence extended beyond the borders of the U.S. In 1990, the UK’s DJ Chad Jackson sampled “The 900 Number” for his hit “Hear the Drummer (Get Wicked),” which secured the third spot on the UK Singles Chart.
Despite facing challenges, such as battling drug addiction in the early 1990s, The 45 King continued to make significant contributions to the music industry. He remixed tracks for prominent artists, including Madonna, and released a series of breakbeat records.
In 1998, The 45 King produced “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” for Jay-Z, a track that sampled the musical Annie and became a massive hit. He also produced the platinum-certified song “Stan” for Eminem in 2000.
Legacy and Passing:
The 45 King‘s legacy is vast and varied. From his early days crafting beats to producing for some of the biggest names in the music industry, he remained a dominant figure in the world of hip-hop.
Tragically, Mark Howard James passed away on October 19, 2023, at the age of 62, but his contributions to music and the hip-hop genre will continue to resonate with fans and artists for generations to come.
Selected Production Credits:
His extensive production credits include collaborations with artists like Paula Perry, Big Scoob, Eminem, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lisa Stansfield, Madonna, Lakim Shabazz, Eric B. & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, King Sun, Chill Rob G, and many more.
The 45 King had an extensive discography that spanned over decades, including albums like “Beats of the Month,” “Beats for the New Millennium,” “Breakapalooza,” “Killer Beets,” “The Lost Breakbeats,” “45 Kingdom,” and “Just Beats,” among others.
Mark Howard James, or The 45 King, was not just a music producer or DJ; he was an institution in the world of hip-hop. His work has left an indelible mark on the genre, influencing countless artists and shaping the sound of hip-hop for years. His legacy will continue to inspire and resonate with music enthusiasts around the world.