The 45 King, producer for Jay-Z, Eminem and Queen Latifah, dies at 62

Aside from his production work, James is also known for his iconic 1987 breakbeat track, The 900 Number.

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The 45 King

Image: Al Pereira / Getty Images

Famed hitmaker The 45 King, who’s produced for Queen Latifah, Eminem, Jay-Z and more, has died at the age of 62.

The producer – real name Mark Howard James – passed away on Thursday (19 October), three days after his 62nd birthday. His death was announced by fellow hip-hop producer, DJ Premier, with representatives confirming the news to Rolling Stone. No cause of death has been revealed.

“His sound was unlike any other from his heavy drums and his horns were so distinct on every production,” DJ Premier wrote. “His vinyl releases of breakbeats are beyond any DJ of the ’80s/’90s Era, practically endless.”

Often hailed as one of the pioneers of New Jersey’s hip-hop scene in the 80s, James received his first big break with the breakbeat track The 900 Number in 1987. The song famously featured a looping baritone sax solo from the Marva Whitney track Unwind Yourself.

The beat was later sampled in DJ Kool’s Let Me Clear My Throat in 1996, and honoured by Questlove as one of the fifty greatest hip-hop songs in 2012.

As a producer, James worked closely with Queen Latifah, a fellow member of his music crew known as the Flavor Unit. He played a pivotal role in producing solo projects for the crew’s members (including Chill Rob G, Apache, and Lakim Shabazz) and was a major driving force behind Latifah’s breakthrough record All Hail The Queen in 1989.

James also had a hand in many rap classics such as Jay-Z’s Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem) and Stan by Eminem.

Tributes from fans and fellow artists around the world have poured in following news of the producer’s passing.

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

Queen Latifah said in a statement: “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.”

Read more tributes below.


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