Craig Mack, one of the first rappers signed to Diddy's Bad Boy Records, died in a hospital near his home in Walterboro, South Carolina, on Monday (March 12), according to the NY Daily News. The cause of death was reportedly heart failure. He was 47.
Mack came to prominence after the release of "Flava In Ya Ear" in 1994. It was among Bad Boy Records' first releases and helped lay the foundation for the nascent label. When Diddy (then known as Puffy) played Mack's record for Clive Davis, it convinced the executive to give Bad Boy a distribution deal reportedly worth $10 to $15 million.
The now-classic "Flava In Ya Ear," would go on to peak at no. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, be certified platinum, and grab a nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 37th Grammy Awards. The ensuing remix featured a scorching verse from Notorious B.I.G. and introduced many to a young Busta Rhymes.
Mack was born in 1971 and grew up in Long Island. At the age of nine, his love of rap began as he watched his cousins deejay at parties and idolized LL Cool J and Run-DMC. Before hits with Bad Boy, he made his first record at 17 as part of MC EZ & Troup. In a 1995 profile with The New York Times, Diddy called him "hip-hop's George Clinton, because his stuff is really off the wall. He does what's from his heart, which is where it starts for him. But his energy comes from somewhere else."
In an interview with Yo! MTV Raps, Craig described his first meeting with Diddy and how it spawned a record deal.
"We meet at this club called the Mecca," Mack said. "Alvin brought me down to Mecca. I went outside the club. I was kicking it with my man Puff. He asked me to kick a freestyle rhyme for him. Me, Alvin, and Puff were sitting outside. I kicked a freestyle rhyme for him. He was like, 'You know what? I'm gonna trade you a record deal if you get down on Mary J.'s ["You Don't Have To Worry (Remix)"]. "
Unfortunately, Mack never matched the success of his debut, Project: Funk da World, and would leave rap behind to relocate to Walterboro, South Carolina, and attend the controversial Pentecostal Overcome Ministry.
According to friend and producer, Alvin Toney, Mack is survived by his wife and two children. Multiple members of the hip-hop community have come forward to pay their respects.