Craig Mack, whose 1994 hit single “Flava In Ya Ear” thrilled the era of 90’s hip-hop, died on Monday (Mar. 12) from heart failure near his home in Walterboro, South Carolina. He was 47 years old.
During the wee hour of 2 am on Tuesday, legendary hip-hop DJs Funk Flex, Biz Markie, and DJ Scratch took to social media to break the distressing news. “I just got a disturbing phone call. I cannot believe this dude is gone,” writes DJ Scratch via Instagram.
Produced by Easy Mo Bee, “Flava In Ya Ear” audibly captured the exactitude of one of hip-hop’s most celebrated eras. In the early 90’s, a time east coast rap was faint in hype, the coming of Craig Mack sparked its resurgence. The remix of “Flava In Ya Ear” featuring Puff Daddy (Diddy), LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, and Rampage pushed one of the most iconic rappers to the forefront, The Notorious B.I.G, creating a timeless hip-hop melody.
Mack was signed to Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment when he dropped his 1994 debut Project: Funk da World, making him a Bad Boy Records pioneer. He is the first artist to release an album off of Bad Boy records, which would become the mecca for east coast rap of the 1990s, and its resurgence.
The distinctive rhymes and flows of Craig Mack are essential to the rutty and sensationally groggy sound of 1990s rap. Prior to his dawning with Bad Boy, as a young teen under the moniker MC EZ, he released one single “Just Rhymin'” in 1988, followed by “Get Retarded” with his group MC EZ & Troup.
Native to Long Island, which at the time was one of New York’s maturing hip-hop epicenters, Mack was close friends with Parrish Smith and Erick Sermon of EPMD prior to the golden era duo’s debut, and eventually went on tour with them. He helped DJ Scratch, EPMD’s DJ, amass his turntables for performances.
With Craig Mack’s legendary stance being a mark of evolution in the culture of hip-hop, tributes to the late icon have flooded social media over the past 24 hours. DJ Scratch revealed how Mack disclosed the making of his documentary just a couple of weeks ago, The Roots’ Questlove describes “Flava In Ya Ear” as “one of the greatest hip hop single debuts in the culture,” while Foxy Brown recalls Mack’s sincerity, “Your grace and humility spoke volumes…,” and Diddy declares the late icon as “very important to the Bad Boy legacy.”
Take a look at some of the many heartfelt tributes for the late Craig Mack from the hip-hop community, below.
R.I.P to one of my good friends..#craigmack and I was young kids at my grandmother's house listening to red alert and WBLS. Waiting to hear the new rap records to record on the cassette tape… we heard #publicenemy @rakim and @officialbizmarkie one night..we lost our minds.. when I got famous I took him on tour with me..then he went home and signed to the label I was on at the time to show me he belongs with the HITSQUAD…then #EPMD broke up..he was devastated..@alvintoney took him to #puffy #badboy and the rest is history..you will be missed… #ahhhh boyyyy.. #mrbadboy himself….@djdiamondtheartist @lenny_ace @coachbernard
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
Damn Mack? Now watch this fraud ass industry profess their undying love for CM now that he’s GONE! Sleep well baby boy. One of my fave prison stories I told the world, (was when you shockingly showed up to visit me incarcerated on RIKERS ISLAND) THANK YOU bro!? Your grace and humility spoke volumes, and you definitely DID NOT get the respect you deserved. Thank you for one of the funniest, most organic visits I’ve ever had during my incarceration; we literally laughed for hours!? Don’t wait til’ one of our GREATS DIE, to give him his flowers. Tell my boy BIG BROOKLYN ain’t been the same! ?u! ?
I’m so saddened to get a text about Craig Mack? I am grateful to have worked with him on this song on the Dangerous Minds soundtrack & he was so kind funny & Talented ?? Rest peacefully Craig?? https://t.co/RJy4bqdeP1
— Missy Elliott (@MissyElliott) March 13, 2018
Sad To Hear About Craig Mack Passing… Our First Gang Starr Tour Opening Up For EPMD In 1990 When Craig Was Just A Roadie Setting Up @djscratch Turntables and EPMD's Stage… After Every Gig He and Redman Would Battle The Whole Town In Our Hotel Lobby For Real Every Fuckin Night… Chubb Rock, Father MC and DJ Quik Were Also On The Tour. We Couldn't Afford A Tour Bus So I Drove My Mazda MPV And Followed The Bus With Me, Biggest Gord, Lil Dap & Guru. It Was Such A Family Atmosphere So We Toured Again In 1992 Along With Das Efx, K-Solo and Now Redman Was A Gold Artist Of His Own… This Is 2 Years Before The Bad Boy Label Era. Salute To Alvin Toney For The Confirmation and Also Touring With Us On 2 Of The Wildest Tours I've Ever Experienced In My Career… R.I.P. Mack #MCEZandTroup #GetRetarted @erick_sermon @pmd_mic_doc @redmangilla @ksolo @officialdasefx @djquik
Craig Mack was one of the few people to strike lighting twice in Hip Hop. First with "Get Retarded" on Fresh Records in 1988, then with Bad boy. After his first strike of lightning, he went through a lot of struggles, a lot. He mentions his struggles in many interviews after he blew up with Bad Boy. You all know how cruel the public can be when someone falls off in Hip Hop. Unfortunately, that cruelty is ALWAYS by "Our People". Craig recently requested me to speak about these things in his upcoming documentary because I embraced him during his trying times after just meeting him. If I had to describe him with one word I would say "Innocent". He was sooooooo innocent, a dope MC, a hell of a beat maker & cool GREAT Dude. Craig was Hit Squad before K-Solo, Redman & Das Efx were discovered. Unfortunately Craig never got the opportunity to get his chance with the Hit Squad because EPMD broke up. Everyone's careers were in jeopardy & Craig was back on his own again. A few years later, EPMD's longtime bodyguard Alvin Toney took Craig Mack's demos to Puffy, Puff signed him & put Bad Boy Records on the map with the platinum single "Flavor In Ya Ear". I cried when I saw Craig had finally made it to superstardom because I saw the struggle, the set backs, I was extremely proud of him!!!! The underdog finally wins!!!!!! He's my definition of never giving up when you're going through it & he's an example of what can happen when you believe in someone regardless of their set backs. This industry is very cruel & backstabbing, I've saw my fair share of it & Craig has seen even more than me. So years ago he left the industry & gave his life to GOD. At that moment is when he was most happy, regardless if no one understood his life changing decision. This has hit home for a number of reasons. First, is because he's the first person in our camp to pass away. News that I wouldn't expect to hear for another 40 years. Second, because he passed away 3 days after Biggie. I won't say rest in peace, because he was already at peace before he passed. I will miss you Craig.
Last night was Dedicated to Craig Mack , God Bless pic.twitter.com/aPHPqxXpjz
— Big Boi (@BigBoi) March 13, 2018
Rest in peace to Craig Mack. pic.twitter.com/bng9362lsk
— Anthony Hamilton (@HamiltonAnthony) March 14, 2018
Just …… Like …… UNIBLAB!
and the late Craig Mack! RIP.
? pic XXL pic.twitter.com/n2uNEmtN9p
— PHAROAHE MONCH (@pharoahemonch) March 13, 2018