The 45 King, the influential New York City hip-hop producer who worked with Queen Latifah, Eminem and Jay-Z, died on Thursday. He was 62.
Born Mark Howard James, he took the moniker The 45 King because of his fondness for sampling old, obscure records. His death was announced on social media Thursday afternoon by a fellow hip-hop producer, DJ Premier.
Information on the cause or place of death were not immediately available. An inquiry sent to James’s manager was not immediately returned.
“His sound was unlike any other from his heavy drums and his horns were so distinct on every production,” DJ Premier wrote, referring to James as DJ Mark The 45 King.
James, born on Oct. 16, 1961 in the Bronx, was a pioneer in the 1980s New York hip-hop scene and worked with early rap stars like the Funky 4, according to his website. He was known for his jazzy beats, showcased on his first hit track, the highly sampled “The 900 Number,” released in 1987. He slowed down a saxophone solo, “dropped the results over an irresistibly funky break” and the result exploded, according to AllMusic, adding that the horn line was “forever ingrained in the collective hip-hop psyche.”
James worked closely with Queen Latifah, a fellow member of the music crew known as the Flavor Unit. James produced the hit song “Wrath of My Madness” on her debut album “All Hail the Queen” in 1989 and also contributed other tracks.
“Thank you for teaching me taking me under your wing, teaching me about this thing called hip-hop, and so much more,” Queen Latifah wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday.
James also produced Eminem’s “Stan,” released on the 2000 album “The Marshall Mathers LP.” The rap tells the story of a perturbed superfan named “Stan” and is set to a throbbing beat sampling Dido’s 1998 track “Thank you.”
“I took a first verse and made into an eight-bar hook for Eminem,” James said in a 2021 interview clip posted to social media by Eminem on Thursday.
“Legends are never over,” Eminem wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
James’s other hits included Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” which sampled the musical “Annie” and a remix of Madonna’s “Keep It Together.”
James credited much of his success and production style to the time he spent in the 1980s working for DJ Breakout, a Bronx hip-hop luminary.
“I like to say I got lucky,” James said in the 2021 interview with the YouTube channel Unique Access Ent. “I was in the right place at the right time.”