DJ Mark The 45 King, Iconic Hip-Hop producer, dead at 62

October 20, 2023
DJ Mark The 45 King

Mark Howard James, better known as the hip-hop DJ and producer DJ Mark the 45 King, died on Thursday at the age 62.

DJ Premier of rap duo Gang Starr, announced the news of James’ passing via Instagram.

“His sound was unlike any other from his heavy drums and his horns were so distinct on every production,” Premier wrote. “His vinyl releases of breakbeats are beyond any DJ of the 80’s/90’s Era, practically endless … You’re such a special part of our culture that is chiseled in the stone of the greatest parts of us.”

“Legends are never over,” Eminem wrote on Twitter. “#RIP Mark Howard James aka The 45 King … I’m 4ever grateful!!!”

“It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of my beloved Mentor DJ Mark the 45 King!,” Latifah 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.”

DJ Mark first gained fame for his breakbeat track in “The 900 Number.” The song looped the saxophone solo at the start of Marva Whitney’s 1968 song “Unwind Yourself” and has cemented itself as hip hop gold. The beat has been used numerous times – most famously by DJ Kool on his 1996 smash, “Let Me Clear My Throat.” 

James’ skill for flipping perfect samples is encapsulated in his biggest hits: Jay-Z’s 1998 classic “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” featured an unexpectedly brilliant sample of “It’s the Hard Knock Life” from the 1977 musical Annie; while Eminem’s 2000 smash “Stan” was built around a then-little known song by the British singer Dido, “Thank You.”

Following news of his death, tributes from numerous hip-hop luminaries poured in. The Alchemist called him “One of the original architects of production,” while Kid Capri remembered him as “one of the sweetest people you could ever meet” and “one of the most gifted people in the world.”

A cause of death has not been revealed.