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The 45 King, Producer for Jay-Z & Eminem, Dies at 62

today10/20/2023

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The 45 King, a hip-hop producer well known for his work on hits such as Eminem’s “Stan,” Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” and producing Queen Latifah’s breakout album, All Hail the Queen, has died at 62, his rep confirmed to Variety and Rolling Stone on Thursday (Oct. 19).

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Born Mark Howard James, the producer’s career kicked off from his Bronx, N.Y., hometown in the mid-1980s with the arrival of the hip-hop scene. He started off as a DJ, and his stage name came from his unique ability to cut samples and spin tracks out of obscure 45 RPM records. His began to take off in 1987 with the arrival of his signature track, “The 900 Number” — the song featured a sax solo from the 1968 tune “Unwind Yourself” by Marva Whitney. The track prompted his signing to Tuff City Records.  

The 45 King’s profile within the hip-hop scene rose after producing Latifah’s 1989 debut album, All Hail the Queen, which peaked at No. 6 on Billboard‘s Top Hip Hop/R&B Albums chart and topped out at No. 124 on the Billboard 200.

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my beloved Mentor DJ Mark the 45 King!” the rapper said in a statement to Variety. “He believed in me before anyone else. He touched every life he encountered. I’ve never met someone like him; he wanted everyone around him to win. His spirit was magic and will certainly live forever.”

By the ’90s, The 45 King continued his production credits by working with Jay-Z on 1998’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” — which sampled the original cast album for Broadway musical Annie — and Eminem’s 2000 hit, “Stan.” The tracks peaked at Nos. 15 and 51 on the Billboard Hot 100, respectively. The producer also worked with Madonna, Rakim, MC Lyte, Gang Starr, Craig Mack, Salt-N-Pepa and more

Both Jay-Z and Em paid tribute to the producer after news of his death broke. Eminem took to X, formerly known as Twitter, and shared, “Legends are never over. #RIP Mark Howard James aka The 45 King … I’m 4ever grateful!!!”

In a statement to Rolling Stone, Jay-Z said, “Thank you, Mark. Your instrumentals, namely ‘The 900 Number,’ were more memorable than our whole albums. You gave me a canvas to have a conversation with the world!! You changed my life. Even when the life is short, the art is long!!”

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