Filed under: Features,Flavor Unit Special,Interviews,Not Your Average,Print Work,Steady Bootleggin'
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
As one of the most influential beat-makers of the late 80’s, The 45 King brought horns up front like no one had thought to do before him, setting the stage for Pete Rock to flip them for his own signature style during his ’93-’94 takeover. But where he really made his mark was on full-length projects, as Mark constructed masterful albums with Lakim Shabazz and Chill Rob G, as well as being the dominant force behind Queen Latifah‘s first step into showbiz. But his reach didn’t end there, as he’s provided some more recent hits for Jay-Z (“Hard Knock Life”) and Eminem (“Stan”), and is currently recording new material with Chill Rob and Lakim.
When I spoke to Mark early one morning, he excused himself to go take a nap or something so I never got the chance to ask him about his superior rhyme skills and a bunch of other shit. I was meant to call him the next day but it never happened. Hopefully I’ll do a part two eventually but this will have to do for now. All I need now is a Latifah post and the Flavor Unit Special is just about a wrap!
The 45 King: My question…what do you think my stage name is?
Robbie: Your stage name? Umm…I guess on the early records it was DJ Mark The 45 King…but nowadays you call yourself The 45 King.
Thank-you…thank-you. Thank-you very much.
A lotta people get that mixed up?
Yeah. Then they cut it Mark 45 King. That’s incorrect. It’s not like I’m Jazzy Jeff or anybody – so me correcting myself – “he got some nerve!”
I got this bootleg a while ago – the Put The Funk Out There album. What was the story behind that?
I have my ideas who put that out, but I had nothing to do with that. It’s funny that people like to bootleg me but they don’t wanna put the record out. So I dunno how that goes.
Was that actually how you planned the album or was that just a collection of tracks that someone just put together?
Considering what the tracks were, that’s why I have a feeling who did it. It was an album that was supposed to come out that never came out.
You started putting out beat records before the stuff with Latee, right?
Yeah, breaks. All because it was easier, because the MC’s used to be a problem.
So you weren’t feeling the MC’s in your area?
No, I was feeling the guys in the area, but you had to have a finished song instead of just a freestyle. There’d have to be a way that you’d end the song – with a hook or whatever – and we wasn’t really comin’ up with that. That’s why I said “You know what? I’m gonna do it without the MC’s and see what happens”, and it did well. So I just kept the MC’s off and I really didn’t have too many problems. Now it’s different – now they can come-up with the hook and all this and that, but back then….
Is it true that in the mid-80s, if you weren’t from the Bronx or Brooklyn, no one was trying to hear you?
Ahh, I don’t know. If you had money to put out a record, and it was a decent record…back then I guess.
You used to have a basement studio with a train turnstile people had to go through?
Yeah, at one time.
How’d you get that?
The turnstile? It was in front of somebody’s house that lived down the block from me, on Styvesant Avenue. It was out the front of his house – it wasn’t in the garbage, but it was in the front of somebody’s house. It was on his property, and it was there every night when I used to come home from work, I’d walk by. One day I caught him outside and I said “Ay, why don’t you sell that to me?” And then he gave me some crazy-ass price, and I said “Man, I coulda took it! I coulda stole the shit!” He knew. “The shit’s been out here for weeks – I coulda came up and took it, and you gonna sell it to me for some crazy-ass price? How ’bout this? I give ya twenty dollars and you help me carry it down the block!”
[I almost piss myself laughing]
Puffy been through that…Biggie, Tupac – actually I don’t remember Tupac actually goin’ through there, but if he’s seen my equipment, more than likely I showed him all my studio, so more than likely he’s been there. Who else…Busta, probably. Jay-Z been through this turnstile – a lotta people, man. Latifah. Q-Tip used to sit on the turnstile. The Jungle Brothers.
And you used to have a lotta graffiti in there?
Nah, not really. That’s when I was a lot younger. The turnstyle was just something to divide the two rooms. For them to get to the studio, they had to go through the turnstyle.
So the Latee record was the beginning of the Flavor Unit?
Yeah, I would say so. But Markey Fresh had a record out – a demo – before that.
“The King Is Here”?
Even before that. Like a little demo that I made with Markey Fresh, and Red start to play that. Red Alert put me on – he was the first person on the radio that took interest – and then I knew Chuck Chillout also. I grew-up with Chuck Chillout up in the Bronx. Even though Red was playing more stuff than Chuck, Chuck was playing stuff too. I can’t forget him.
So those promos were before you were doing all the records?
Yeah, because it was easier. I wasn’t pressing up any rap records, because nobody was finishing ’em. “This Cut’s Got Flavor” don’t really have a hook. When he stop rhyming – here’s comes the horn! That got over.
A lotta people talk about Pete Rock’s horns, but you were the first guy to really bring them out in your beats.
I had a whole bunch of Kool & The Gang albums – I had all but one and shit. And “Too Hot” didn’t have horns on it [chuckles]…and we cleared most of ’em, I believe.
Was the whole Flavor Unit recording with you when you did the Latee record, or did it build from there?
Yep. First it’s Latee and then Lakim Shabazz and then Chill Rob G, then Double J, Latifah…I think that’s basically it – and Apache.
What about Lord Alibaski and Ron Delite?
Alibaski, yup. Ron Delite wasn’t really. He was with Tuff City I believe, but I don’t think Ron Delite was part of the Flavor Unit. He’s cool though.
What about Jamose?
Nah, he wasn’t down.
How come Double J did all the beats on his own album? Was he trying to save money?
At that time, my credibility…I was fuckin’ up my career by smokin’ angel dust, and the word got out that I was doing all types of drugs. So people didn’t want my beats as bad as they did at the beginning. I think if I was real hot I would’ve been doing tracks…and I think he did a pretty good job.
I read that you said that the 45 King Presents…The Flavor Unit album was just a bunch a demos. Was that something that Tuff City just put out?
That was one record that we all was on, and then a whole bunch of other records, bits and pieces, put together. A bunch demos – yeah, I guess you could say a bunch of side records. Apache did a song…I don’t think Chill Rob G was on it.
Fab Five Freddy said that you made the “Microphone Fiend” beat for him originally.
Yeah, I gave that to him and then I turned around and gave it to somebody else. He eventually found out – I don’t think he was mad. I think it’s because it was Eric B. and shit – Eric B. is intimidating. Haa! “There you go Eric. You can have it too!” And then I did the remix for it, so that was cool.
I guess that used to happen a lot during that period.
Did Freddy pay me for the beat? I dunno, he might’ve gave me some money. He might’ve gave me something. Who knows?
He never did anymore records anyway.
Right. But he did a big one though! Okay? Freddy had a big fuckin’ record.
That’s a classic.
Freddy has a classic. “Change The Beat”, ha ha. Prolly still rock a party.
Did you supply any other beats for that Eric B. album?
I did “The R” I think. The drum beats or the bassline…yep. Eric B. was the first person to give me some real money.
Do you still do business with Tuff City?
Was the Cat Jams album recorded recently?
That’s something that Tuff City put out that I really didn’t care for. It was my idea turned around. It was a series turned into one LP. So I handed in a whole bunch of songs, thinking that a whole bunch of albums were gonna come out, and what they did was pick their best ten out of it, and put out one album, and let’s call it Cat Jams. That’s not my idea. My idea was just to have a series where one album would be called “Puma”, one album would be called “Tiger”. I wasn’t gonna say nothin’ about no Cat James. A lot of things Tuff City do with my music – they come up with the hook, and name the album, and sometimes they name the song…use my logo without my permission a lot of times. We have to talk about that – it’s my logo. I’m just letting people know – what labels do sometimes, you have no control over it, so don’t think “Oh, that’s his idea”. I actually think have better ideas than “Cat Jams”. I like the Quiet Storm idea they came up with – but I didn’t like the album cover. And they don’t have to get permission! It would be nice if they got permission, but that’s showbiz. I ain’t large enough.
I noticed on that album you sampled off old things like “Love Rap” and stuff…
Oh! That’s because he [Aaron] owns that shit. All the songs that you heard before – Tuff City owns. So it makes sense for him to do it, so that’s a kinda smart move on both our parts. We don’t got to pay for nothing, we just gotta sell his stuff all over again. It’s stuff that I basically looped. I looped the best parts of his shit.
So now you use Logic on the Mac?
Is that the easiest way to go now?
I wouldn’t say it’s the easiest way, ’cause you’ve gotta program a computer to make it real easy for you. It takes time to load a computer up before it’s the way you want it. So you’ve gotta set Logic to do what you want, and put stuff in it that you want. After you put all the stuff in it that you want, it becomes a lot easier to work with.
It must be a nice change after all those years with the tiny Akai sampler screens.
It has a sampler in it. Considering that I have all of my drums and all of my basslines and all of my special sounds that I use in it already, it opens up where I can get to it. It’s good, but it has to be set-up that way, and that takes time. And some people don’t set-it up that way – each time they make-up a beat they start it from scratch and they sample the drums over and over again – I just use the same sounds.
Just rearrange it each time…
I don’t really have to rearrange it too much. I don’t sample drums again and then sample them again for this record. Maybe a few other producers do that – I don’t know how they do their stuff.
What’s your favorite album that you’ve done?
I like Latifah’s album. Chill Rob G was cool…Lakim Shabazz! All the albums that I do have a lotta good stuff on ’em, I think.
Originally published in Peak Street magazine
Vinyl and tape rips:
The 45 King – Untitled
Queen Latifah feat. The 45 King – A King And Queen Creation
Diamond D – Best Kept Secret (Remix)
The Flavor Unit – The Flavor Unit Assassination Squad (LP version)
The Flavor Unit – The Flavor Unit Assassination Squad (Remix)
Eric B. & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul (Remix)
Eric B. & Rakim – Microphone Fiend (Remix)
The 45 King cutting up breaks:
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