Craig Mack Coming Back With An Earful From The Streets

'Flava in Ya Ear' MC readying new album, working on reunion with Bad Boy.

Craig Mack says fans shouldn't look for him in any "Where Are They Now?" specials — he's right here. The first MC to release an album on Bad Boy Records is returning to his roots, and he claims he's close to finalizing a recording contract with P. Diddy.

"[I'm] back working with Puffy, making everything tight," Mack said Tuesday on the set of P. Diddy's video for the remix of "I Need a Girl." "I'm getting ready to go in the studio next week, making sure this album and everything is ready."

In 1994, Mack dropped the platinum classic "Flava in Ya Ear," and his debut album, Project: Funk Da World, went gold. Mack, however, didn't stick around long enough to see Bad Boy blossom — he bolted in 1995 reportedly over money issues with Diddy.

Mack found out that earning one platinum plaque didn't necessarily guarantee him permanent status among hip-hop's elite. Although he independently released another LP and a few white-label singles, Mack hasn't made much noise since "Flava." To eat, he started hustling.

"I've been doing a few different things," Mack said. "[Nothing] necessarily that you would be proud of. I don't want to be bragging or boasting about how I get down. Just to let everybody know, I've been safe, I've been secure, working hard, doing what I gotta do. Now it's time for us to get out here and rock with the rhymes again."

Mack, who's going to appear on Diddy's upcoming remix album via his contribution to G. Dep's "Special Delivery" with Ghostface Killah and Keith Murray, said that although he left the label, he remained close with the Bad Boys.

"It's always been a thing where I've always been a part of the family, just me being more or less one of the distant relatives of the family," he said. "It was always there. Me and Puff see each other at clubs, and it just was a thing like 'Let's get it going again, let's get out here, let's rock these cats like we're supposed to.' We linked up, went down to the studio, he asked me if I wanted to get on the joint, and I was like, 'Yeah.' I went out there and spit it on [the remix]. Here we go again."

Looking back, he said, "I don't regret [leaving the label]. I'm just glad that I'm with my family. What happened in '94 and '95 happened in '94 and '95, and it must've happened for a reason. So to see everything come back together now, it's just a good thing and a blessing. Me and Puff both agree, we don't care what happened in the '90s. We're looking at it like this is the new millennium — new things is happening. I've got a new way to hit these cats. Let's get in here and let's bang it out."

Mack said his new LP will connect the dots of what he's been doing while he was out of the spotlight.

"Where I've been and what I've been up to, all those things will be addressed in the album. Me being in the streets, running around, surviving how I survived, it brings a lot of drama to the table. It brings a lot of situations to the table that the audience wants to hear. I'm sure they're tired of hearing rap cats talk about the streets. I'm in the streets. I don't see nobody that's running around talking crazy in the streets [who's actually in the streets like I am]. You're gonna hear the truth. It ain't about bragging and boasting, it's about letting these kids make the decision of what they wanna do in their life after hearing me."

Jennifer Lopez is one person who's heard and appreciated the Mack man. Her hit remix of "Ain't It Funny" uses the same Easy Mo Bee-produced track that powered "Flava in Ya Ear."

"I think that's beautiful, man," he said of J. Lo's track. "The 'Flava in Ya Ear' checks keep getting bigger and bigger. It's amazing to me how that record's legs have so much strength to them. The record has an endurance that's timeless. Like [MC Shan's] 'The Bridge,' you could play it at a party 30 years from now and people are still gonna get up and be like, 'Oh, man, remember that? I gotta get to the dance floor.' Anybody that wants to use 'Flava in Ya Ear,' please be my guest."