45 King is the Reggie Jackson of Hip-Hop. Whenever anybody needed that sound, that drum loop funk, that gusto – there was the 45 King’s name. His is a name that found its way onto all the big labels during the Golden Era: Wild Pitch, Tuff City, 4th & Broadway. The Bronx-born DJ went on to bring out Queen Latifah, Lakim Shabazz, as well as produce classic records with MC Lyte, X-Clan, do remixes for Madonna, Eric B. & Rakim, and others. Contrary to P.Diddy’s notion, 45 King may’ve very well invented the remix. His break-beat LP’s were instant sellers in record stores, and his “900 Number” is arguably the greatest loop in Hip-Hop, ever – just ask Ed Lover.
But somewhere in the early 90’s the beat maestro was removed from the limelight. Rumors swirled and feelings were hurt. But the 45 King retained his throne in 1998 when he gave Jay-Z his boost into Biggie’s shoes. “Hard Knock Life” was the anthem of the year. Before it got out of rotation, 45 King struck back with “Stan” which gave Eminem his most artistic merit, and Dido an American career. Since the new millennium, the 45 King has been playing occasional gigs, producing here and there, and living off his successes. An enigma of sorts, . Take heed, as AllHipHop.com examines the rarely discussed years and stories of one of Hip-Hop’s most influential figures and funnymen. Respect the architect.
AllHipHop.com: What’s new with the 45 King? What you doing with your time now?
45 King: Chilling, collecting royalties.
AllHipHop.com: In honor of February as Black History Month, I wanted to ask you about X-Clan. ‘Heed to the Word of the Brother’ is one of my favorite records ever. Did you have any role in the artistry of that gem?
45 King: Oh yeah, I forgot about that! I just made up the beat and they bought the beat from me. That was basically it. I didn’t feel extra Black that day, and I didn’t say, ‘Oh, I wanna do this song because of the brothas’, it was just loop up a beat, give it to ‘em, make some money. I don’t know.
AllHipHop.com: That’s largely how your approach is perceived. Were their points in your career where you got involved in the artistic side?
45 King: Sometimes, yes. Most of the time, no. In the beginning of my career, when I was hot – yes, people really cared. But when you’re not that hot, they really wanna say that they did it by themselves actually. ‘Oh, oh, oh, Mark didn’t do nothing. But he had the beat! I’m the one that made it good. I made the hook! I mixed it down. He don’t know how to mix stuff down’, I could’ve mixed it down, if you would have told me what to do. Lotta people like to say they did this or that. That’s pretty normal.
AllHipHop.com: Everybody’s a credit whore.
45 King: Yeah, pretty much. That’s why I like to make up a beat myself and they just buy the beat from me and do the rap.
AllHipHop.com: It’s funny to me, though. You are popularly regarded one of the most influential producer to East Coast Hip-Hop beside Marley Marl…
45 King: Oh yeah? I bet you the people that’s saying that don’t have no money for me. They ain’t buyin’ beats. I told Marley Marl, I said, ‘Pioneer? You know what that means? That means we too old to get paid a lot of money’. Let’s not give ‘em no money, but let’s call them pioneers. I’m real happy and everything that I received and had the chances that I had. I’m not mad at anybody. I’m too great to hate. But it seems like people get mad at me for knowing the bulls**t. I know that bulls**t!
AllHipHop.com: Recently D-Dot told us that you’re not a producer if you’re not there for there for the session. Other producers say similar things. You laid the groundwork for this. How do you take that talk?
45 King: I guess I’m a not a producer, then. They really don’t want me around. My face ain’t known. It’s not like I’m one of the Neptunes and they can’t wait til’ I get there. I’m just Mark!
AllHipHop.com: But it’s your legendary ear.
45 King: I can actually do it over the phone if there’s a decent ass engineer that knows the levels of how loud an MC is supposed to be. If there’s ever a case where they actually want me around, and they pay me enough.
AllHipHop.com: You also have a studio in your house too, that’s a difference.
45 King: I used to track the tapes and give them a two-inch tape with everything on it. Now, with Pro Tools and Sound Tools and whatever tools, now all you have to do is email your music to the spot.
AllHipHop.com: You talk about emails. You got one of the best artists websites I’ve seen [45King.com]. I know that web-design is one of your hobbies…
45 King: Thanks a lot! Actually, I have five people who help me with that. They showed me how to change [files].
AllHipHop.com: Before there was DJ Premier, you were the producer on those first few Gang Starr singles. That’s always with you. How does that feel?
45 King: I feel happy for them. Really, it’s not a big thing. It’s not a big thing to them. They do mention me though in interviews. It’s not a big thing where we hang out. That’s how it is. That’s show business. You do tracks with people, you’re friends for a while or whatever, that’s how it goes.
AllHipHop.com: Before ‘Hard Knock Life’, you were having some rough personal times…
45 King: Oh, I was black-balled for smoking dust back in ’91 and ’90.
AllHipHop.com: From the industry?
45 King: Yes.
AllHipHop.com: Who has the power to make that decision?
45 King: Usually, it’s word of mouth. Basically. When people say you’re good – you get work. When people say you’re bad – you don’t get work. End of story.
AllHipHop.com: But Russell Simmons smoked dust too?
45 King: [gasp] Did he really?
AllHipHop.com: That’s what I heard.
45 King: He probably lying! [laughs] But actually, Russell’s large enough to take that. His name is much larger. Okay, I smoked dust and Russell says he smoked dust. If I throw a party, nobody would be there. If Russell throw a party, everybody would be there. But you could tell him at the party, ‘You know they both smoke dust, right?’ People would say, ‘I don’t care that Russell smoked dust. Can I get to the shrimp please?’ That’s just how it is.
AllHipHop.com: Was there a point before that Jay-Z where you thought you hit a bottom?
45 King: You never really know when this s**t gonna end. Whatever. There wasn’t really nothing I could really do or say. And to this day, people still say, ‘Oh, I heard something’s wrong with [me]’. To this day, ‘Oh, I heard 45 King is f**ked up, blah blah blah’. Interview the right person, they’ll tell you that s**t. They’ll also tell you I talked to them yesterday. They’ll go that far.
AllHipHop.com: How do you compare the success of ‘Stan’ and ‘Hard Knock Life’ against your barrage of hits in the early 90’s?
45 King: In the early 90’s, I was hot. In the late 90’s, I wasn’t.
AllHipHop.com: But I’m sure that the money was stronger off those two, because Hip-Hop was so commercialized.
45 King: Back in the days, there was 16mm videos. Now there’s 35mm videos that look more like movies. People are more into what they see on television than what they hear. Things can be bought to sell.
AllHipHop.com: You like to send out your work. How often do you find yourselves sending stuff out lately?
45 King: Honestly, I send ‘em to my website. A lot of people just want to turn you down. A lot of people will turn down the hottest producers just to say they turned them down. I guess I send out to certain people. If I think you’re full of s**t, I’ll tell you to go the website. People like my beats when they don’t have money. I’m slick.
AllHipHop.com: I know you and Diamond D hang out a lot, and have remained friends throughout the years. How is the friendship different today, than 15 years ago?
45 King: Everything the same. I know him better.
AllHipHop.com: There’s a Big L tribute later this month. Do you come out to many events?
45 King: Not really. Once you get blackballed, you understand who’s who. Why go to a party with a bunch of people that are only at that party ‘cause the person is hot right now.
AllHipHop.com: Has anybody ever apologized to you for the way you were done?
45 King: Why should they? They didn’t blackball me.
AllHipHop.com: But there’s no such thing as an innocent bystander. Why should your personal life have had any affect on the fact that you were dope.
45 King: If it’s art, who knows? With art, what is dope? It’s whatever’s hot.
AllHipHop.com: Queen Latifah is just an unstoppable force these days with her commercial work, acting, and new album. I’m counting on you to tell me a story about the early days that we haven’t heard, something entertaining…
45 King: A funny story? Only funny story I got is – she was playing baseball in Japan. A baseball hit her finger, and she got hurt.
AllHipHop.com: Huh? Why was she playing baseball?
45 King: She was in batting cages. The baseball came through real fast and hit her finger. [laughter]. I wasn’t there, though. [more laughter].