Craig Mack, the Grammy-nominated “Flava in Ya Ear” rapper from Brentwood who helped launch Sean Combs’ Bad Boy empire, died Monday in his Walterboro, South Carolina, home. He was 47.
Colleton County coroner Richard Harvey confirmed his death to The Associated Press and said it appeared Mack died of natural causes.
“My style is a style that ain’t a style, so I can go buck wild,” Mack said in a “Rap City” interview in 1994, when his debut album “Project: Funk da World” was released. “It’s unorthodox . . . It just fits on tracks. Don’t try to read it.”
Bad Boy Records launched with Mack and The Notorious B.I.G. as its main acts, with Mack’s album being the label’s first release. Once the wild “Flava in Ya Ear” became a hit, topping the rap charts for 14 weeks and reaching No. 9 on the pop charts, Combs ordered a remix that featured The Notorious B.I.G. to introduce him to a wider audience.
When Biggie’s career took off, Mack, even after “Flava in Ya Ear” earned a Grammy nomination, became less of a priority at the label and he did his second album “Operation: Get Down” for Street Life Records in 1997. Shortly after that, Mack turned his focus to religion, becoming a minister in South Carolina.
Because of his religious beliefs, Mack declined to be part of last year’s Bad Boy reunion tour, though Combs said there were no hard feelings. “We all respected where he was coming from,” Combs told Billboard.
“In this game, man, people don’t realize the music industry only has a 1 percent rate ratio, so sometimes it’s very stressful and it brings you only to places that you can go to and should go to, which is God.”
News of Mack’s death drew remembrances across the Strong Island hip-hop community.
“Rest in power Craig,” tweeted LL Cool J. “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.”
EPMD’s Erick Sermon, who gave Mack his start by having him as the group’s assistant, tweeted that he was just finishing up an album with Mack. “I’m devastated over the news of Craig Mack,” Sermon wrote. “SMH… Rest in power Craig.”
Biz Markie celebrated Mack’s successes. “He had two perfect singles and the platonic rap remix,” he tweeted. “That’s more than most. May he kick that ol’ robotic, futuristic, George Jetson crazy (expletive) in the infinite.”