Craig Mack, the Long Island rapper hailed as part of the starting foundation of Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment, has died at age 46, his producer confirmed to the Daily News.
Mack, who launched to hip-hop acclaim with the platinum summer hit “Flava in Ya Ear” in 1994, died of heart failure at a hospital near his Walterboro, S.C., home Monday.
“God bless my friend. He was a good friend of mine,” said Alvin Toney, who produced Mack’s debut album “Project: Funk Da World” and his “Get Down Remix.”
Toney saw his dear friend one final time last week.
He visited the former emcee at the Overcomer Ministry church he attends in Walterboro to film a documentary about the retired rhymer, and his decision to pass on fame for a life of deep religious conviction.
“Nobody got to understand his story,” Toney said. “I wanted the world to know the talent he had. It was something I wanted people to enjoy, but it was cut short because he was very religious and wanted to go to church.”
Tony said Mack told him during his visit that he had been ill for some time and knew he wouldn’t survive.
“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 children, both adults, Toney said.
As a boy, the Suffolk County native dreamed of making it big like LL Cool J and Run DMC, according to a New York Times profile of Mack. He began penning his own lyrics at 12.
Mack’s short-lived career shined bright with the help of Diddy, then known under his first pseudonym Puff Daddy.
The Bad Boy Entertainment founder met the aspiring artist at the Manhattan club Mecca and promised to sign him if he could freestyle to Mary J. Blige. Mack did not disappoint.
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Soon, Mack’s star-studded hit, “Flava In Ya Ear,” was born. The song went on to earn a Grammy nomination for best rap solo but lost to Queen Latifah’s “Latifah’s Had it Up 2 Here.”
His pioneering mix prominently featured Diddy’s other NYC star, slain The Notorious B.I.G., who was largely responsible for bringing the renowned record label to famedon.
Diddy declared both Biggie Smalls and Mack the foundation of Bad Boy Entertainment.
“This is my life here,” Diddy said, gesturing to Biggie Smalls and Mack during an undated interview with MTV Raps. “We all need each other to live and breath. That’s the way we treat each other.”
A rep for Diddy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mack was missing when Diddy reunited his Bad Boy crew for the 2015 BET Awards, having disappeared from the limelight to pursue his faith at a troubled South Carolina church.
Mack appeared in a bizarre 2012 video of the church’s self-proclaimed prophet, Ralph Gordon Stair, showing the world the famed rapper was still around — and in his congregation.
“Craig Mack is dead. We have somebody who used to be Craig Mack. He didn’t join anything. God joined him,” said Stair, who was arrested on sexual assault charges in December 2017.
Stair gave the man, who identified himself as Mack, the chance to speak for himself.
“What did you used to do,” the broadcast preacher asked.
“Wickedness,” Mack said.
His 1994 hit was the first mix launched from Diddy’s Bad Boy Entertainment.
(Richard Corkery/New York Daily News)
“And what are you doing now,” Stair continued.
“Righteousness,” Mack replied before bouncing up and down with his hands in the air.
In a later video, Mack could be seen picking up the microphone to freestyle.
A congregant who left Stair’s church after the Christian preacher was busted due to years of mounting rape and molestation accusations, said Mack attended the house of worship up until his death.
The former parishioner, who asked to not be identified, told The News that Mack “identified with the church and was associated with it,” but did not live in its rural compound believed to be home to dozens of followers.
Some of the biggest names in New York hip-hop paid tribute to Mack after learning of his death early Tuesday.
“Rest In Peace! Good brother,” tweeted Funkmaster Flex, the Hot 97 DJ who shared Mack’s hits on the NYC station.
Brooklyn’s DJ Scratch remembered Mack as the hardworking roadie who helped set up and break down his turntables on tours.
“I cannot believe this dude is gone,” said DJ Scratch, the stage name for George Spivey. “He just reached out a couple of weeks ago for me to speak on his documentary about his life.”
“Rest In Peace Lil Bro,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
Like Mack, “Just A Friend” rapper Biz Markie got his start on Long Island.
“R.I.P TO MY MAIN MAN CRAIG MACK ANOTHER GREAT ONE GONE,” he wrote.