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Ah! Boy: 6 Things You Didn't Know About Craig Mack

The artist was dedicated to the rhymes, his faith and more. 

Craig Mack's untimely passing has reminded the music world of his talents. The New Jersey native was widely known for "Flava In Ya Ear," as well as its classic remix. On top of delivering the blistering lyrics and metaphors that made our heads spin, he also helped perfect the molding of hip-hop and R&B jams by working with artists like Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men and Brownstone.

Described as kind-hearted from his collaborators and friends, the 47-year-old faced several crossroads during his career. Helmed as Bad Boy Records' first solo artist, his debut album Project: Funk da World reached gold status off the success of his breakout single. While Mack and Sean Combs would resolve their issues later down the road, he was dropped from Bad Boy before the release of his shelved sophomore album,  Operation: Get Down. The album would go on to get a push from Volcano Entertainment and the now-defunct Scotti Brothers Records, home to acts like Weird Al Yankovic and Leif Garret. It didn't get the same shine, despite stellar production from Eric B. and guest verses from Keith Murray.

As hip-hop continued to be in awe of Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur, other rappers enjoyed the benefit of Mack's raw vibe. He went on to call them out on the '97 single, "Jockin My Style."

A few singles and guest appearances would keep Mack in the mix, including the surprise verse on G-Dep's "Special Delivery" remix with Ghostface Killah and Keith Murray in 2002. Ultimately, the rapper decided to part from the industry in favor of a higher power.

This week sure won't be the last day we hear about the artist. With new music already created before his passing, here are other things to know about Craig Mack.

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6. Craig Became A Proud Member of The Pentecostal Overcome Ministry By Accident

Led by troubled spiritual figure Ralph Gordon Stair, Mack was a member of the Walerboro, South Carolina church. The music industry got wind of Mack's spiritual journey after a video surfaced in 2012. Mack described his music career as "wickedness" while currently walking down the a "righteous path." Friends were aware of his close relationship to his faith, but many were concerned he had joined a cult.

Eric Sermon shared with Billboard that Mack was listening to the radio when he stumbled upon Stair's broadcast. "Craig wasn't in a good place," he said Tuesday (Mar. 13). "He was going through stuff and that's how he got to [South] Carolina in the first place. He happened to be riding in his car and back then, we'd play radio and he flipped the AM station by mistake and that man was talking. That's how he got to Carolina. That's a story you're going to hear from me first and not nobody else. It came from Alvin [Toney]. That's how the whole thing went down. He was going through something really, really bad."

 5. Despite Walking Away From The Industry, He Still Loved Music

In 2016, he appeared on the church's YouTube page with a freestyle about God. “Well I know to the world, the rap I kick will make you think I’m a lunatic, lost my mind or mentally sick,” he raps timidly. “But for all mankind this is it, new kingdom on the earth where the devil don’t fit / No more bad times and no more wars, New Jerusalem the city with the gold on the floors.”

He would go on to address the noise about his religion later that year on "Praise The Lord" where he denied being in a cult. "Gave away my cars, turned in all my guns/ 'cause Mack stays with beef like hamburger buns/ Sold my home, moved my family, South Carolina/ y'all can stay mad at me, if I stayed in New York, just another tragedy... What you gonna do 'When God Comes,' to me, the best song on the album, if you don't turn around, you know the outcome/ hell is a place you'll never come back from." He also goes on to question the LGBT community, genetically modified foods and technology.

4. He Used To Practice His Rhymes On The Roof

Drayz of Das EFX shared the funny story on Instagram. While touring, the two along with Skoob would enjoy Mary Jane in hotel staircases. During one stop, the rapper skipped a session to practice his rhymes.

"So me and son are smoking when Skoob was like, 'shhhh you hear that?' I was like, 'hear what?' He said ,'It sounds like somebody is on the ROOF of the hotel howling & rhyming!' We went up some steps, climbed a ladder, opened the door to the roof and guess who was out there–Craig Mack," he captioned a photo of the two. "We looked at him like, 'What the f**k are you doing?!! He was like, 'I'm practicing my bars and I'm too loud for the room.' We were like, 'Hmmm this guy is different.'

3. He Was Actually Discovered By EPMD

Mack, who initially went by MC EZ, began rapping at a young age. His actual breakout came at the tender age of 12 when he battled a then 14-year-old Eric Sermon in 1982. Complex notes Sermon recalled the moment on an episode of The Cypher. “I beat Craig Mack," he said. "I think I beat Craig because Craig... used a beatbox person for his beat. I was able to use my DJ Diamond J, who became my DJ for EPMD.”

Already close friends, Mack later became an assistant for the group. He was brought on the Hits Squad tour with Das EFX, where they would routinely battle rappers all over the country. After the tour, EPMD went their separate ways. Mack ultimately signed with Combs and the rest is history.

2. He Wasn't Interested In The Bad Boy Reunion

The Bad Boy Reunion show featured nearly every artist during the label's golden years, but Mack. Combs shared his sentiments about the matter and says he respected the rapper's decision. “I don't think anybody was disappointed [Mack didn’t show up]. We kind of respected his wishes,” he told Billboard. “In this game, man, people don't realize the music industry only has a one 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. We can respect that because if any of us is still here, we'd have to go to him, too. Sometimes, people can't walk back and forth in both worlds.”

Ironically, Mack's first church freestyle was released days after the Bad Boy show.

1. Eric Sermon Is Working On Craig's New Album

Mack's passing revealed a few passion projects he was working on before his death. One included a documentary on his life. Sermon tells Billboard that Mack talked to producer Alvin Toney, Funkmaster Flex, Biz Markie and Eric B, with Toney visiting Mack in South Carolina.

“So, he called me, Alvin, Funkmaster Flex talked to him, Biz Markie talked to him, Eric B talked to him. About eight of us talked to [Mack]," he said. "So, we all knew his situation. We all tried to get down there, but he was embarrassed of the situation and wouldn't let us come down there. Eventually, my boy Alvin got down there... Luckily, Craig Mack came out on time and they ended up getting the two hour interview.”

Meant as a warm up of sorts for fans, Sermon released "Come Thru" with Mack, Method Man and Mr. Cheeks earlier this year.

"I think that rapping was secondary because people didn't really know how dope Craig Mack was and all they heard was the "Ah! Boy!" and the way that his delivery was, but lyrically, he was about to be something," Sermon said. "If you noticed everybody that spoke about Craig on social media, they've said one thing: He was a beautiful person. That's the one thing I would want everybody to know about him. That boy was walking love. The real Craig Mack was really a nice person. He has his ways here and there, but the overall person, was a beautiful person."

READ: From The Vault: Revisit Craig Mack’s VIBE Magazine Features

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

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8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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