Craig Mack, who was one of the earliest breakout stars on Sean “P. Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records in the mid-1990s and then faded from the music scene at least partly by choice, died on Monday.
The 46-year-old New York native passed away from heart failure at a hospital in South Carolina, where he’d moved in recent years, the Daily News confirmed with his producer.
“God bless my friend. He was a good friend of mine,” Alvin Toney, who produced Mack’s debut album “Project: Funk Da World,” told the newspaper.
Mack started rapping under the name MC EZ in the late 1980s, according to Rolling Stone. He met Diddy , who was then in the process of forming Bad Boy Records outside the New York club Mecca and impressed him with his freestyling. Signed to a contract, he found instant fame with his 1994 song “Flava in Ya Ear.” It sold over a million copies, was nominated for a Grammy and spawned a remix Who’s Who of rap remix featuring Notorious B.I.G, LL Cool J, , Busta Rhymes and Rampage.
The news of Mack’s passing had tributes pouring in from all over — and all settings:
Born in Queens, Mack told the New York Times his cousins got him into rap at age nine and he soon started writing his own lyrics.
“I knew I wanted to be like LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C.,” Mack told the Times in 1995. That was the same year he left Bad Boy, and although he released a solo album, “Operation Get Down” in 1997, he couldn’t replicate his earlier fame. He later left music for religion, becoming a member of Overcomer Ministry church in Walterboro, S.C.
There, he seemed to have moved on from rap, Rolling Stone says.
“In Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: The Bad Boy Story, the 2017 documentary chronicling the rise of Combs’ revered label and reunion tour, ” the magazine wrote, “Mack can be heard discussing the possibility of returning to the stage, but declined because of his religious beliefs.”