As the cliché goes, it's not what you know, but whom. San Diego rapper That Guy knows a good opportunity when he sees one-such as his recent chance to record a song over a beat supplied by legendary East Coast beatsmith Mark the 45 King.
"I saw it as a chance to be legit, to stand up straight and put my best work in front of the people," That Guy says.
The song is called "Maria," an ode to the music business, a tempestuous tease of a woman if ever there was one. ("And the industry's name is Maria/ and she don't even hear me trying to holler at her...")
In these days of high-stakes hip-hop bombs, when multi-platinum albums are touted as much for the "butt value" of their beats as much as for the intricacy of the raps, rappers are willing to pay dearly for beats from an established producer.
Though exact numbers are rarely discussed in public, it's rumored that MCs pay mid-five figures just for a single track from a chart-topping producer like Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Scott Storch or Just Blaze.
Named after his affinity for collecting and sampling old 45 RPM records, the 45 King is best known as an old-schooler responsible for launching the careers of Queen Latifah and Chill Rob G. But 45 King's career spans decades and includes hits for contemporary rappers like Jay Z ("Hard Knock Life"), and Eminen ("Stan").
Needless to say, the collaboration is a huge move for That Guy. It was set up through his manager Omar S., who grew up with the producer on the East Coast.
"I've known Mark for years. He's my cousin's best friend," Omar explains. "Growing up as a kid, I was always over at his house rhyming or whatever."
Omar initially approached Mark looking for a little help with the launch of his new San Diego-based record company, Label Mates.
"He supplied us with two beats," says Omar. "My kids helped me decide which one to use. [When] I put "Maria' on, they just started dancing around and singing the hook. I thought to myself, "I know how that goes-that's the one.'"
"Maria' is available on 12-inch vinyl format at local hip-hop outlets like Access Music, The Armory and Stacks Vinyl.