New York rapper Craig Mack helped lay the foundation for Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Records with his Platinum selling single, “Flava in Ya Ear,” the label’s first release. The official remix was also noteworthy for featuring breakout performances by The Notorious B.I.G. and one of the first solo performances by Busta Rhymes.
According to the New York Daily News, Mack died of heart failure at a hospital near his Walterboro, S.C., on March 12th. “God bless my friend. He was a good friend of mine,” Alvin Toney, producer of Mack’s 1994 debut album, Project: Funk Da World, told the Daily News.
Toney had known that Mack was struggling with illness for some time and would not survive. He saw his friend one final time last week to film a documentary about the retired rapper, and his decision to pass on fame for a life of deep religious conviction.
“He was prepared for whatever comes, to go home to the Lord… He was prepared to do that. He wasn’t scared. He was ready,” Toney said.
Mack grew up in Suffolk County, Long Island, and started writing rhymes at 12. He went on to cut his first single with Teddy Lee at just 17-years-old, under the names “MC EZ and Troup.” His early singles, “Just Rhymin'” and “Get Retarded” were later sampled by Dr. Dre, LL Cool J, DJ Muggs, and MC Eiht.
He first met Diddy at club Mecca and agreed to sign him on the spot if he could freestyle to Mary J. Blige. Mack was signed to Bad Boy Records, but his debut album was dwarfed in popularity by the breakout release of Biggie’s debut album, Ready to Die.
Mack went on to release his second and final studio album, Operation: Get Down, in 1997. The album, which was his first since his split from Bad Boy Records, featured Eric B., of the famed Long Island rap duo Eric B and Rakim, as the executive producer.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at landing another hit single, Mack disappeared from the hip-hop community in 2012, relocating to the Overcomer Ministry in Walterboro, S.C.
In memory of Craig Mack, Salute Magazine put together a playlist featuring five essential tracks by the late-New York rapper, including his best-selling hit, “Flava In Ya Ear,” his first single as MC EZ, and a few other surprises.
LISTEN: REMEMBERING CRAIG MACK PLAYLIST