The tragic news was announced Thursday (October 19) by DJ Premier, who said on Instagram that the Bronx-born producer and DJ had died that morning — just days after celebrating his 62nd birthday.
A cause of death has yet to be revealed, although Premo mentioned that he had been in hospital earlier this week.
In his heartfelt post, the Gang Starr veteran also expressed his admiration and respect for James, who was also known as DJ Mark the 45 King, while sharing a detailed history lesson his decorated career.
“R.I.P. DJ Mark The 45 King who passed this morning. An ICON. His 62nd Birthday was Monday,” he wrote. “I never heard of Gang Starr until I heard DJ Red Alert play their 2nd single Produced by Mark on 98.7 Kiss in NYC while shopping my demos looking to get a record deal.
“Red Alert was playing ‘Bust A Move Boy’ cutting it up crazy and I heard Guru’s voice wondering who the fuck is Gang Starr? I immediately went and bought the 12inch single to discover the label Wild Pitch Records. From there my friend Carlos Garza in Houston, TX. told Stu Fine who owned Wild Pitch about me and I connected with them in 1988 when Guru was looking for a new DJ and a permanent Producer.”
Premo continued: “Mark is responsible for so many classics and was a member of the Iconic Crew FLAVOR UNIT (Queen Latifah, Latee, Chill Rob G., Lakim Shabazz, Double J, Lord Alibaski, DJ Cee Justice, Apache, Naughty By Nature, Freddie Foxxx, Markey Fresh, Rowdy Rahz, Storm P and so many more members beyond whom I’ve mentioned please pardon me if I didn’t post your name).
“His sound was unlike any other from his heavy drums and his horns were so distinct on every production. He got a huge Warner Bros. deal and remixed the Classic Madonna single ‘Keep It Together’ and the raw remix of Eric. B and Rakim ‘I Know You Got Soul.’”
DJ Premier went on to name more of The 45 King’s memorable productions, including Eminem’s “Stan,” JAY-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” and Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First,” among others.
“Beyond that, his vinyl releases of breakbeats are beyond any DJ of the 80’s/90’s Era, practically endless,” he continued. “Thanks Dave Lotwin (D & D) for Facetiming me Tuesday in the hospital to salute him 1 last time before he transitioned. I know he heard me loud and clear.
“Condolences to his brother Mike and his sister. It’s so much more to say but I’ll leave it here. Sleep Peacefully Mark thank you for all that you’ve done. Such a nice person. You’re such a special part of our culture that is chiseled in the stone of the greatest parts of us. LOVE YOU MARK.”
Tributes to The 45 King also poured in from Diamond D, Young Guru, Mad Skillz, A-Trak, Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Kareem “Biggs” Burke, author Dan Charnas and more. Check them out below.
HipHopDX sends its condolences to The 45 King’s family and friends.