Steve King: Musician, producer and recording engineer who played a key role in the rise to stardom of Eminem


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Alongside Dr Dre, Jeff Bass and Luis Resto, the Detroit-based recording engineer and musician Steve King was an important part of the team that helped the rapper Eminem make such compelling tracks as “White America”, “Sing For The Moment” and “Superman” for The Eminem Show, which topped charts around the world and won Best Rap Album at the Grammy Awards in 2003.

King also sparked off and mixed the all-conquering, life-affirming smash “Lose Yourself”, included on the soundtrack to Eminem’s 8 Mile film, which won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2002, and contributed guitar, bass and other instruments to “Like Toy Soldiers” and much of Eminem’s Encore album in 2004. He also worked on recordings by D12, the Detroit hip-hop group featuring Eminem, as well his collaborations with 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks.

Born in the Northville suburb of Detroit, he played bass with The Pigs, a late 1970s punk band mentored by Don Fagenson, now better known as the record producer Don Was. King enjoyed the first session at Sound Suite studio. “As soon as I walked in the control room, I knew what was up,” he recalled. “I just had to figure how to do it.”

After stints in several more groups, King worked as tape operator and engineer at Sound Suite, where he assisted Luther Vandross as they recorded vocals for Aretha Franklin’s 1982 comeback album Jump To It, and became right-hand man to Don Was on the bassist-turned-producer’s Was/Not Was project and albums by the British neo-soul outfit Floy Joy and big-haired one hit wonders the Ward Brothers. King proved equally expert at engineering the gospel sound of the Winans, the funk of Parliament, the power pop of The Romantics or the alternative rock of Sponge.

His partnership with Eminem began in 1997 as he mastered his The Slim Shady debut EP. “That was the catalyst for him getting connected with Dr Dre,” said King. “Marshall would work the drum machine. He’s so clever about him he puts the words and rhythms together along with the music. I would play bass or guitar and Luis [Resto] would do keys. We’d orchestrate the track around the theme of the lyrics,” he said of the modus operandi at 54 Sound in Ferndale, Michigan, and the songwriting credits he received on The Eminem Show.

King made the move from analogue to digital recording but didn’t find the result as “listener-friendly.” He had recently been treated in hospital for liver-related issues and died from internal bleeding.

Steve King, engineer, mixer, producer, musician and songwriter: born Detroit 1958; married Roberta (one son, one stepson, one stepdaughter); died Detroit 3 June 2014.