Rapper Craig Mack, who rose to prominence in the early 1990s and helped jumpstart Diddy’s Bad Boy Records label with his 1994 hit, "Flava in Ya Ear," died of heart failure at a hospital near his home in South Carolina on Monday, according to the New York Daily News. He was 46.
Mack’s longtime friend and producer Alvin Toney, who worked on his 1994 debut album, Project: Funk Da World, confirmed Mack’s death with the Daily News. Toney told the Daily News he met with Mack as recently as last week. He said Mack told him he was dealing with an unspecified illness.
"He was prepared for whatever comes, to go home to the Lord," Toney said. "He was prepared to do that. He wasn’t scared. He was ready."
Mack is survived by his wife and two adult children.
Mack, who hailed from Long Island, first started rapping under the name MC EZ in the late 1980s. But he caught his big break a few years later while working as an assistant to Long Island rap legends EPMD. Mack was introduced to Sean "Puffy" Combs, now known as Diddy, and appeared on the remix to Mary J. Blige’s 1993 hit, "You Don’t Have to Worry." He was also signed to Diddy’s then-upstart label Bad Boy Records and started working on his debut project, Project: Funk Da World.
Mack released his hit single, "Flava in Ya Ear," in July 1994. It was the first official release for Bad Boy. He also released a remix of the single, featuring The Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Rampage, and Busta Rhymes. The song received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance at the Grammy Awards in 1995, but it lost out to Queen Latifah’s "U.N.I.T.Y."
Despite the success of Mack’s debut album, it would be his first and only release on Bad Boy. He split from the label a few years later before releasing his sophomore project, Operation: Get Down, in 1997. It did not enjoy the same success as his first album, and Mack subsequently stepped out of the spotlight and spent much of the last two decades focused on attending church in South Carolina. Still, Mack is widely credited with helping Diddy get Bad Boy off the ground at its start.
Many of those in the hip-hop community are mourning Mack’s death by taking to social media on Tuesday. Erick Sermon, Funkmaster Flex, and others have shared their reactions to Mack’s passing.
I'm devastated over the news of Craig Mack.. We just finishing up his new album.. smh.. Rest in Power Craig...— Erick Sermon (@iAmErickSermon) March 13, 2018
Rest in power Craig. May the almighty embrace your soul & lift up your family and friends. it was a pleasure to know you & rock with you. You $tepped away from the game & did it your way.. I always respected that.#RIPCraigMack— LLCOOLJ. (@llcoolj) March 13, 2018
Rest in Peace CRAIG MACK. Long Island's own. We were proud of Craig when he came out with the little indie song as MC EZ & TROUP. Then a few years later he went on to make one of the biggest most iconic songs in Hip Hop history. Rest EZ. Never forgotten. We love ya bro— R.A. the Rugged Man (@RAtheRuggedMan) March 13, 2018
Diddy also paid his respects to Craig Mack. "You were the first artist to release music on Bad Boy and gave us our first hit," he wrote on Instagram. "You always followed your heart and you had an energy that was out of this world. You believed in me and you believed in Bad Boy. I will never forget what you did for hip-hop. You inspired me and will continue to inspire us. We will always love you."
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