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…
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
A post shared by FunkFlex (@funkflex) on Mar 12, 2018 at 11:15pm PDT
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
Friday, Fox announced an upcoming two-hour special to explore the deaths of slain rappers 2Pac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. Rapper, author, actor, and director Ice-T will co-host Who Shot Biggie & Tupac? along with Emmy Award-winning journalist and author Soledad O’Brien, as the show takes a deeper look into what amounted to cold cases during at least two police investigations and one FBI probe.
Shakur died on September 13, 1996 after being targeted in a drive-by shooting on the Las Vegas Strip. The Notorious B.I.G.—born Christopher Wallace—was similarly killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997. The former friends and collaborators turned rivals remain linked some 20 years after both were killed.
Fox’s choice to cover the two iconic rappers is a curious one, given how Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera and other of Fox’s news pundits have previously criticized hip-hop music and culture.
“This is why I say that Hip Hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years,” Rivera said, during a critique of Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 BET Awards performance.
The special will also reportedly feature what is being billed as the first on-air “reunion” between Lil’ Cease and E.D.I. Mean—one-time protégés of B.I.G. and Shakur as respective members of Junior M.A.F.I.A. and The Outlawz. Doug E. Fresh, Funkmaster Flex and Suge Knight are also set to appear.
“The Times has since concluded that the FBI reports were fabricated and that some of the other sources relied on—including the person Philips previously believed to be the ‘confidential source’ cited in the FBI reports—do not support major elements of the story,” the retraction read.
Former LAPD captain Kevin McClure shut down a task force investigating B.I.G.’s murder in 2010 noting a lack of results.
“We kept pounding the doors on the same cold leads,” McClure told the Los Angeles Times in March. “The shooter is most likely dead. You cannot ask him who paid him. We don’t know who gave the money.”
Well, this one was. It's partly my own fault; I've had the album on repeat since it dropped, and being armed with knowledge of Jay's history, from actual stabbings to legendary friendships, there are some moments on 4:44 that might be getting overlooked. Or, at the very least, haven't been highlighted by many as of yet. In an effort to make those who might not have ran this one back a number of times, here's a look at some things you might have missed on your first listen through Jay Z's 4:44.
Jay recalling the stabbing of Lance “Un” Rivera
On the opening track, “Kill Jay Z,” Jay touched on his issues with Kanye West and also brought up the time he stabbed Lance “Un” Rivera at the Kit Kat Klub in New York City in December of 1999 over allegations that Rivera had been bootlegging Vol. 3.
You got a knot in your chest, imagine how a knife hurts
You stabbed Un over some records
Your excuse was “He was talkin' too reckless!”
Jay ultimately plead guilty to the assault charges he was facing, and received three years probation, but to hear Cam'ron tell it, the incident wasn't over bootlegging music: it was over Undeas Entertainment's Charlie Baltimore, to whom Jay is said to have had a thing for.
Revealing that his mother is a lesbian
For what appears to be the first time in history, Jay Z rapped about his mother's sexuality on “Smile,” which also features a spoken word outro from his mother, Gloria Carter.
Mama had four kids, but she's a lesbian
Had to pretend so long that she's a thespian
Had to hide in the closet, so she medicate
Society shame and the pain was too much to take
Cried tears of joy when you fell in love
Don't matter to me if it's a him or her
I just wanna see you smile through all the hate
This isn't the first time Jay has supported the LGBTQ community; he applauded his friend President Obama's stance on same-sex marriage back in 2012.
Subtly referencing his past issues with Funkmaster Flex
Also on “Smile” was the following line that could be looked at as a reference to Hot 97's own Funkmaster Flex: “This is Hov, no flex zone, nigga, who lied to you?” While many of us will remember how hard Flex has ridden for Hov over the years, back in 2015 their relationship hit a speed bump when Flex started calling Jay's Life+Times blog “trash.” This was due to Flex's feelings about the Life+Times app, which he says was essentially taken from information he gave to them about the Flex app that apparently ended up in their app.
The radio rant sparked the now-infamous and alleged “This is HOV” text to Flex, which Flex then posted on Instagram.
A post shared by FunkFlex (@funkflex) on Jan 16, 2015 at 7:17pm PST
A month later, Flex said if Jay was past the beef, he would be past the beef, but this is also Jay's first album since Flex went on that rant. Maybe he was just saving up one line until he was good and ready to address it.
Sending shots at Al Sharpton's gym selfies
Most Jay Z theorists assume that he'd been working on what became 4:44 since late 2016, but judging by this pair of lines on “Family Feud,” he must have been working on it down to the wire, as he found a way to include Al Sharpton's viral gym selfies that hit a little over a week ago (week ago).
Al Sharpton in the mirror takin' selfies
How is him or Pill Cosby s'posed to help me?
You read that right; Hov also found a way to throw some shade at Bill Cosby by calling him “Pill,” which is a reference to the sexual assault allegations Cosby's been dealing with.
Sticking up for his friend Prince
On the Frank Ocean-assisted “Caught Their Eyes,” Jay took most of the second verse to speak out against Londell McMillain, the lawyer who was formerly handling Prince's estate.
I sat down with Prince, eye to eye
He told me his wishes before he died
Now, Londell McMillan, he must be color blind
They only see green from them purple eyes
These bars were more than likely a result of the lawsuit that Prince's estate filed against Tidal in November of 2016 over the streaming rights to Prince's music. Jay wasn't done there, though.
This guy had 'Slave' on his face
You think he wanted the masters with his masters?
You greedy bastards sold tickets to walk through his house
I'm surprised you ain't auction off the casket
Hov was not only referring to Prince's historic battle for his masters from Warner Bros. (who released a deluxe edition of Purple Rain with the blessing of Prince's estate just last week) and the actual tours people can buy tickets for through Prince's private estate, Paisley Park.
Oh Marcy, Marcy me
Just the way I am always gonna be
I ain't gonna change, no
Marcy, Marcy me, just the way I am
Possibly hinting at the future addition of 4:44 to Apple Music
One of 4:44's standouts is “The Story of O.J.,” which finds Hov questioning the value of a dollar, especially to artists, people of color, and anyone growing up in the hood. Essentially, Hov ties up his role in the music business right now: “I'm tryin' to give you a million dollars worth of game for $9.99.” Now, sure, a Tidal subscription goes for a cool $9.99, but so does one of Tidal's competitors, Apple Music. Was this Hov slyly informing the world that 4:44would be hitting non-Tidal services in the future?
But that was only the latest of Bow Wow's losses. Below, a curated list of some of the biggest ones. We couldn't include them all, because who's got that kind of time?
July 2009: Whose Hands Are Those?
In an attempt to prove… something (that he has a girlfriend? that he's sexy? that he wears Polo drawers?), Bow Wow posted a photo to Twitter of someone (possibly model Rosa Acosta, who he was dating at the time) sticking their hand down his pants.
Early in 2010, Bow Wow's mom joined Twitter. She then proceeded to do what moms have done throughout time—say stuff that embarrasses their kids.
Bow Wow said he was going to make his mom delete her account. And then it all went wrong. Fans were clearly on her side, rather than his. Finally, desperate, he said he would delete his own account unless his mom got rid of hers. And she responded in a thread-killing, quietly vicious, perfectly mom-like way.
June 2013: The Vine
Bow Wow published a quick Vine of him walking in front of a bunch of children. “They don't know it's me. Oh shit,” he exclaimed. He then laughed as if he was getting away with something. A bemused internet quickly responded, saying that the kids don't know who he is because, well, they don't know who he is.
January 2014: Rent-A-Stunter
In early 2014, Bow Wow was in Los Angeles for Grammy weekend. He drove around in a Ferrari, and made sure to post plenty of pictures to social media of himself in the driver's seat. The captions implied that the car was his.
Well, the rental car company didn't exactly appreciate that. They decided to claim some credit, and give Bow Wow another round of bad press in the process.
December 2015: The (Mistaken) Origins of the Dab
By late 2015, Bow Wow had just about enough of dabbing. Everyone—football players, teenagers, politicians—were doing it, and they didn't know where it came from.
As it turned out, neither did Bow Wow. He recorded a long, confusing message attempting to tie dabbing to smoking weed.
And he was immediately and roundly mocked, including by the dance's true originators.
Bow wow must of got a little too high this morning. 😂😂
Live television can be dangerous for even the most experienced performers. And Bow Wow met his match during the 2016 Grammys, when he messed up the end of the pre-show not once, but twice.
April 2016: Fake Money
Bow Wow posted a shot on Instagram of a bunch of money. Typical rapper stuff, right? Well, not when the photo was actually taken by a stock trader named Timothy Sykes. Sykes called out Bow Wow on IG, and the two had a not-particularly-memorable back-and-forth involving fake watches. But the damage was already done to what was left of Bow Wow's reputation.
According to the Hot 97 DJ, not all of the late rapper’s gun wounds were caused by his enemies; the first was actually self-inflicted. Funk, who was reportedly in the building at the time of the shooting, claims Pac accidently shot himself when he attempted to pull out his gun during the ambush.
“You Pac fans always talking that talk,” Flex said in the broadcast. “Cheddar Bob. Came in there, popped himself in the leg. Popped himself first. That’s what happened.”
Funk continued: “He knew who approached him. He had a steel on him, because he knew he had a issue out there, and when get got there, they was just gonna take his jewelry. They didn’t even touch him. He panicked, pulled out the steel, shot himself.”
A post shared by Reliving HipHop Day By Day 📆 (@onthisdateinhiphop) on May 2, 2017 at 10:05am PDT
The shooting took place on Nov. 30, 1994, right after Pac arrived at Quad Studios to record a feature. The rapper was reportedly ambushed, beaten, robbed, and shot five times at the studio; however, it’s been widely speculated Pac unintentionally shot himself.
“In the haste of getting his gun out of his waistband, I believe he pulled the trigger,” said former LAPD investigator Greg Kading. “I think the wounds to his head were superficial lacerations from being pistol whipped. If [his three aggressors] went there to execute him, they could have certainly done that.”