One of New York’s early renegades of hip-hop, Craig Mack, passed away on Monday night. The MC, who left the industry for religious reasons, passed away at a hospital near his home in Walterboro, S.C., of heart failure at the age of 46, his producer confirmed to the New York Daily News.
Born in Queens, N.Y., in 1971, Mack broke into the music scene with his 1994 hit “Flava In Ya Ear,” a top-10 hit that would go on to sell over a million copies. “Flava In Ya Ear” became the first hit single of Sean Combs’ (P. Diddy) legendary hip-hop label, Bad Boy Records. The song’s subsequent remix featured notable rappers such as Notorious B.I.G, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes and Rampage.
Combs and Mack met in the ‘80s when Mack was rhyming under the name MC EZ. Combs, at the time, was looking to start up Bad Boy after having been fired from Uptown Records. Mack freestyled for the producer outside the nightclub Mecca in Manhattan and signed to the Bad Boy label soon after that.
Unfortunately, Mack wasn’t able to keep his industry flame alive after the success of “Flava In Ya Ear” and its gold-certified album, Project: Funk da World. After leaving Bad Boy Records in 1997, Mack released his album Operation: Get Down with very little success.
Eventually, Mack moved to South Carolina and devoted himself to religion, becoming an evangelical Christian in a Walterboro church. Last year, the documentary Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Bad Boy Story (which chronicled the rise of Combs’ label) hinted at the possibility of Mack returning to the stage as part of a Bad Boy reunion tour, but the rapper declined the invitation because of his religious beliefs. Combs told Billboard in regards to Mack’s decision:
We kind of respected his wishes. In this game, man, people don’t realize the music industry only has a 1 percent rate ratio, so sometimes it’s very stressful and it brings you only to places that you can go to and should go to, which is God. We can respect that because if any of us is still here, we’d have to go to him, too. Sometimes, people can’t walk back and forth in both worlds.
On social media, fans and colleagues of Mack are paying their respects to the late artist. Notable entertainers who’ve publicly shared their condolences include Funkmaster Flex, LL Cool J, DJ Scratch and M.I.A.
I just got a disturbing phone call. I cannot believe this dude is gone. He just reached out a couple of weeks ago for me to speak on his documentary about his life. Because Craig was my rodie on tour. He would set up & break down my turntables every night on tour. Rest In Peace Lil Bro.
A post shared by Turntable Whisperer; (@djscratch) on
Rest In Peace! Good brother… #CraigMack …. Alvin Toney love my brother…
A post shared by FunkFlex; (@funkflex) on
Rapper Erick Sermon also shared a tribute to Mack, revealing that he and the late rapper had just finished work on a new album. It remains to be seen whether that LP will see a release.
Mack is survived by his wife and two adult children.