UK Hip Hop has lost one of its greats. On January 1, 2016, veteran DJ producer Mark B passed away. Most UK Hip Hop fans, casual or otherwise, will know Mark B best from The Unknown – a collaborative album with London MC Blade and an LP now widely regarded as a stone-cold classic way beyond UK shores.
Fewer fans will know him from his prior work on projects with Task Force, Lewis Parker and MUD Family, or his more recent stuff with Aussie MC, Dialect.
A resident of Kingston, London, Mark B’s first taste of Hip Hop came through graffiti, before a passion for music took hold. By his late teens, B had amassed a healthy collection of breaks from which he began to learn the art of mixing and sampling.
He marketed himself as a master of hunting covetous beats and earned respect for his ‘unprecedented beat digging’ – a passion which took him around the globe in search of obscure gems.
After building a reputation in the mid-nineties with tracks for Vadim and his own 12-inch featuring MCM and Big Ted, the dark and heavy beats of Task Force’s debut LP, New Mic Order – released in 1999 – really put across not only the technical production skills of Mark, but his ability to select beats that complemented the flow of MCs – in this case the lyrical dominance of Chester P and Farma G.
It was on the back of the Task Force release that Mark reunited with old-friend Blade. Having previous collaborated on the Jazz Fudge EP releases, Hitmen for Hire and Nobody Relates, the two teamed up for The Unknown.
A move away from 80bpm beats that had previously adorned Mark’s production and DJ mixes, the more uptempo, cranked up, block-party beats of The Unknown showcased K-Boro‘s finest’s versatility, providing the perfect backdrop for Blade’s hard rhymes, as well as those of guest MCs Chester P, Skinnyman and Lewis Parker. Oh, and Westwood. Cuts from Mr. Thing, Prime Cuts and Plus One serve as a reminder of an ability on Mark’s part to incorporate various styles in order to perfect a beat.
Mark B is a sad loss to the UK Hip Hop scene, but the music, and the legacy, lives on.
Check out archive releases on Bandcamp.
Task Force – New Mic Order:
Mark B & Blade – The Unknown: