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From The Vault: Revisit Craig Mack's VIBE Magazine Features

From 1995 to 2000, here's what previous writers for VIBE had to say on Mack's trajectory throughout his rap career.

By reading passages of rising to established artists of the past, you get to grow closer to the person they used to be and the person they became throughout life's dealings. For Craig Mack, he was described as a hungry young rapper that took any opportunity handed to him before he became responsible for shaking up hip-hop with his debut single "Flava in Ya Ear."

Mack not only left an impact through his rhymes but also through the descriptions of storied journalists. Since his death on Mar. 12 from suspected heart failure, the 46-year-old artist sparked an outpour of stories across the Internet from writers and collaborators that knew him best. From 1995 to 2000, here's what previous VIBE writers had to say on Mack's trajectory during the length of his rap career.

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Shoot: Craig Mack In Outer Space (August 1994)
By: Lisa Leone

Craig Mack is the first artist to come out on Puff Daddy's label, Bad Boy Entertainment. The video we're shooting is "Flava In Ya Ear," and the location is definitely some different flavor: the New York Hall of Science in Queens. "I always wanted to make a video with science fiction as the theme," says director Craig Henry. The crew has struggled all morning to dig a grave in a rocky field nearby. The camera is down in the grave with a piece of Plexiglass over the lens. Craig's supposed to throw dirt at the screen while he raps about "leaving suckers buried in the ground," but he's not feeling it. "I didn't come here to shovel dirt," he says. Puffy gives a pep talk: "You're throwing dirt on other MCs; you're leaving them in their graves."

One more take and Craig's shoveling on the beats. It's time to go inside. The great hall, designed to simulate outer space, is eight stories high, with wavy cement-brick walls embedded with cobalt blue glass. It looks even freakier lit with multicolored concert lights. When Craig steps in the beam, it's as if he's being teleported. The last step is to wet down the floor and turn on the tornado machine. "For the next video," says Henry, "we should have you jumping from planet to planet." Mack's eyes light up.

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Mack Daddy (February 1995)
Craig Mack doesn't act like a bad boy; he's answering to a higher authority.

By: Mimi Valdes

Craig is making shots. Maybe it's because he's happy at Mr. Cue Billiards near Brentwood, Long Island where he spends time with his boys whenever he can. Or maybe he's just a good player. Obviously, he's a good MC. The single "Flava in Ya Ear" (from his debut album, Project: Funk da World) stayed on top of the charts for months. Between Mack's stop-and-start flow and Easy Mo Bee's hypnotic groove, the song was truly brand-new - that ol' robotic, futuristic type sh*t.

But only a few years ago, Craig Mack was just another kid among thousands dreaming of MC fame. Lots of rhymesmen came from Brentwood - the best known being Biz Markie and EPMD. Back in the day, when no one was trying to get with Craig-the-wannabe-rapper, Biz gave him inspiration. Craig refers to him as an uncle. "I seen people dissing Biz," he says, "and they did the same to me. I used to get comments on how ugly I was, kids throwin' stuff at me. I just hung out by myself." But even with people causing drama, he maintained: "Like how a person with only one arm deals with their life - it's a horrible thing, but they deal with it."

At 17, Craig achieved local notoriety as MC Ez with the 1987 single "Get Retarded/Just Rhymin." But his label, Sleeping Bag records, folded, and Craig found himself back at square one. He graduated from Brentwood Ross High School, but didn't want to go to college or get a full-time job; he wanted to rhyme. Needless to say, his parents were bugging.

Then Parrish Smith from EPMD offered him a gig on the infamous 1992-93 Hit Squad tour, which also featured Redman and Das EFX. Craig carried bags, cleaned the tour bus, and did other menial tasks. But even on the road, he was still the kid who got kicked around. "Das EFX were the only brothers on the tour that was cool with me," he says. And when he returned from the road, Craig's parents him out because he was "not accomplishing anything."

"Some birds fly off the tree limb just by their mothers telling them," he says matter-of-factly. "Some birds, like me, need a little push."

From that point, Craig Mack lived in the streets. He often slept in the woods on Spur Drive North in Brentwood, sneaking into a clubhouse built by someone he knew. Then he heard that Alvin Toney, a former EPMD bodyguard, was looking for him. Toney was starting a management and production company, and remembered Craig had skills. On the Hit Squad tour, Toney used to tell deal-seeking kids in hotel lobbies that if they could battle Craig and win, he'd take them to meet EPMD. Craig never lost.

Craig met up with Toney, who introduced him to Bad Boy Entertainment president Sean "Puffy" Combs las year outside of Mecca, a New York City nightclub. Craig kicked a freestyle, and Puffy offered to sign him - as long as he agreed to rhyme on the remix of Mary J. Blige's "You Don't Have to Worry." That guest spot was compared to Redman and Busta Rhymes, but by now it's evident that Craig has a flava of his own.

Listening to Project: Funk da World, it's apparent that Craig is a TV kid. "Just like Uniblab/Robotic kicking flab" is how "Flava in Ya Ear" opens. when he wrote the song, Craig says, he was watching a Jetsons episode in which Uniblab, a new Spacely Sprockets robot, goes crazy.

Aside from TV, the other main influence on Craig is God. The most haunting song on the album - the only one whose lyrics are printed on the CD insert - is called "When God Comes," a wake-up song to the hip hop generation that Craig wrote in 20 minutes. "It's like Jesus put his hand on the back of my head," he says, "and I just started writing." Though he makes his relationship with God no secret - he prays several times a day in hotel rooms, bathrooms, parking lots, wherever - Craig's quick to point out that he's not a preacher. "The Lord is on his way," he says. "It's your option to follow him."

Craig has had his share of hard times, but maybe now, better things are in store. He admires Robert De Niro and Tom Hanks, and he'd eventually like to pursue an acting career. But for now, Craig says it's all good. "I'll sign every autograph, I'll shake every hand, I'll smile at everyone," he says, lining up a shot at Mr. Cue. "I can't take things for granted."

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Craig Mack 'Operation: Get Down' (August 1997)

By: Darrell M. McNeill

A stoopendiferous jam leaves an indelible imprint on your dome: Years later, you can hum the tune word for word, even when you can't recall where you left those darn car keys. Craig Mack dropped such a bomb with 1994's "Flava in Ya Ear," which lit up the sky up like Hale-Bopp, laying the cornerstorne for Sean "Puffy" Combs' indomitable Bad Boy Entertainment. Mack reminded us why we love hip hop in the first place: dope rhymes and slick metaphors; flipped-wig delivery over earthquake beats. Now, after being out of the limelight because of disputes with his former fam, he confronts the most dreaded phase of a career in rap: the Sophomore Album.

On Operation: Get Down, Mack takes pains to shed his Bad Boy scowl. He accentuates the positive with party jams, sex vs. love diversions, and missives about the consequences of street life. Problem is, he and his producers seem to be going through the motions instead of shooting for another groundbreaking personal statement like Project: Funk da World. The chunky loops and beats that buoyed his rubbery style have largely been supplanted by lightweight pop-song samples and R&B vocal hooks. Fine for smoothies like Heavy and LL, but Craig's beefy, drunken lyrics threaten to collapse these tracks like bricks through wet toilet paper.

Ironically, the most successful joints are those that recall Mack's Bad Boy days: "Today's Forecast" and "Jockin' My Style." The strongest of the new-style productions is "Do You See," a cautionary tale decrying ghetto nihilism. But the rest of Operation: Get Down lacks Mack's boom, energy, and gritty enthusiasm. This may be a moot point, since remixes now make good albums practically unnecessary, but it certainly underscores Puffy's reputation as perhaps the best producer (of debut albums anyway) in the business.

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Chairman's Choice: Craig Mack (June-July 2000)
By: Chairman Mao

If a year ago someone had told you that in 2000 an all but forgotten 12-year rap veteran would crack into the rigid playlists of urban-airwave monoliths like New York's Hot 97 FM with a phantom white-label single, what would you have said? Well, if you were properly in tune with hip hop's cosmic path, you would have nonchalantly stated that CRAIG MACK, to paraphrase his former B.I.G. Bad Boy labelmate, is a motherfu**in' rap phenomenon.

With "The Wooden Horse," the talented Mr. Mack has dropped hits in three separate decades - each one arriving exactly six years apart. His first, the 1998 mix-show classic "Get Retarded," came when Mack - then rolling with EPMD's Strong Island crew - was known as the EZ half of MC EZ & Troup: the second, 1994's mega-smash "Flava in Ya Ear," put Bad Boy Records on the map. Completing his career hat trick in 2000, Mack's production accomplice, 45 King, turns the beat around and alchemizes a carefree groove out of Frank Sinatra's Salvation Army bin classic "High Hopes" - another catchy, sampled pop chorus reminiscent of his handiwork on Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life." Mack himself is in fine form, triumphantly boasting, "You ain't heard my flow in a while/ And I still ain't heard nobody who can f**k with my style."

The laughter nearly turns to tears on the single's flip side, a moving cover of EPMD's "Please Listen to My Demo." But where Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith's 1989 original recounted their rise from anonymity to stardom, Craig's brutally honest rendition documents the emotional, and even criminal, struggles he faced during his stretches outside fame's spotlight. Rhymes Mack: "Ay yo, what happened? I was on the road to fame. King of New York, largest ni**a in the game/ Me and Biggie Smalls killin' it on Hot 97/ Now Biggie Smalls somewhere in heaven/ And I'm down here in hell with a story to tell/ Praying to God that my new sh*t sell." Don't sweat is, Craig. As history has proven, can't nobody hold you down."

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Review: 'Bad Boys For Life' Proves To Be A Promising Crowd-Pleasing Throwback

“We ride together, we die together” never really made that much sense as a slogan, did it? Regardless, the line that epitomized the appeal of Bad Boys, the uber-violent action buddy cop franchise that turned Martin Lawrence and Will Smith into movie stars back in the mid-90s. Smith and Lawrence– now fiftysomethings– are back for a third go-round with surprising and enjoyable new tricks.

In 2003, the eight years between Bad Boys seemed like an eternity. But there’s been seventeen years between Bad Boys II and Bad Boys For Life—the former hit theaters before an iPhone ever existed, just as the so-called War On Terror was hitting full swing and a wide-eyed Beyonce embarked on a nascent solo career. If the buddy cop genre was on life support in the early 2000s, the formula is almost completely post-mortem in 2020; most buddy cop flicks in more recent times have been subversive spoofs (like 2010s The Other Guys) or unfunny one-offs (like the forgettable CHiPs).

This time around, Mike Lowry (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) face the realities of middle age. Burnett is happy to waltz into retirement and into “Papa” territory, exhausted from chasing kingpins. Lowry, on the other hand, is ever more of an adrenaline junkie than in the past; addicted to the thrill and holding on to a “bulletproof” playboy image that’s getting sadder and sadder—particularly when he’s forced to admit he wrecked a promising relationship with fellow officer Rita (Paola Nunez) and every time he peppers his bravado with Millennial-speak like “Turn up” and “One Hunnid.”

Lowry’s disappointment in Burnett’s desire to leave the force turns into something harsher after a shooting forces Mike to take stock and Marcus distances himself from his old partner. Of course, this is all just a set up for the duo to reconnect in the face of tragedy—along with a gaggle of new recruits led by Rita; including a computer geek who may or may not be a killing machine, a young tough guy who hates Lowry for apparently no reason, and Vanessa Hudgens.

Bad Boys For Life has more heart than the lunkheaded Bad Boys II, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Ballah don’t forego the departed Michael Bay’s formula for punchlines and hyperkinetic violence; there’s an opening knife sequence that’s almost gratuitously graphic, and an action set-piece on a bridge that may be the most ambitious in the series. There’s only a passing mention of Burnett’s sister (played by Gabrielle Union in the previous film) and an obligatory callback to II’s funniest moment involving his daughter, but a lot of the movie’s emotional core sits with Smith’s Mike Lowry. Smith plays his first action star with an almost meta-level of intensity.

He’s the sum of all Will Smith’s Will Smithiness in one character and gets to play with the idea of Lowry’s machismo persona. Together with the recognition that Lawrence isn’t really an action star (the film smartly turns his affinity for sitting and watching as Smith jumps headfirst into heroics into a running gag), it’s a good turn for the characters and helps elevate the second half of the movie after a somewhat rote first half.

As the film’s “big bad,” Telenovela action star Kate del Castillo isn’t given a whole lot to do, nor is Jacob Scipio as Armas, as her son and steely hitman, who is on the hunt for Lowry. Reliably familiar support from Theresa Randle as Burnett’s long-suffering wife and Joe Pantoliano as the perpetually-flustered police captain Conrad Howard reminds everyone that this is a Bad Boys flick, and the actors clearly relish jumping back into their long-standing roles.

But these films always work best when Smith and Lawrence get to quip lines back-and-forth while dodging bullets, and the easy partnership between the two remains intact, even when the film lags under its own clichés or the sentiment borders on silly. There’s a twist that feels especially contrived and so many self-referential moments where Marcus and Mike seem to almost know that they’re in a movie about Marcus and Mike (who say “Bad boys for life” as a wedding toast, really?), but there’s a breeziness to the proceedings that feels more in line with the easy fun of the 1995 original—as opposed to the frenetically hyperactive feel of its sequel.

Anyone who is excited to see Bad Boys For Life wants to go into it for what these movies have always managed to give their fans; just enough comedy sprinkled with just enough to story to justify eye-popping action sequences and RoboCop-levels of bloodshed. The buddy cop genre was always predictable, but the best of it—classics like Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop and, yes, the first Bad Boys film—has always been a fun night at the movies.

In that regard, Bad Boys For Life doesn’t disappoint. It’s coasting on the easygoing partnership of Smith and Lawrence, as it always has. 25 years ago, they were two of the biggest stars on television, making a somewhat unlikely leap to action stardom in a movie initially written for then-Saturday Night Live comedians Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz that was being directed by a guy most people had never heard of. We may be a vastly different audience today than we were in the 1990s or 2000s, but there’s some fun in watching how different Mike and Marcus are too.

Franchises like Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon seem like big blockbuster brands of yesteryear, as a whole generation of moviegoers have grown up with vast comic book spectacles or rapid-chase car flicks overpopulated with musclebound tough guys. As such, Bad Boys For Life stands as a sort of throwback in popcorn entertainment; that reliable action-comedy that coasts on the chemistry and charisma of its leads—more so than otherworldly special effects or universe-building.

The constant mentions of “One last time” statements remind the audience that this could be the final go-round for Mike and Marcus. Big box office returns can reroute retirements, but if this is indeed the grand finale for Bad Boys, there are worse ways to go out. In a world where Lethal Weapon 4 and Rush Hour 3 exist (with talk of another in the Chris Tucker/Jackie Chan series coming down the pike), Bad Boys For Life should be praised for what it does manage to do so well. It’s fun, violent escapism that doesn’t ask too much of anyone. And sometimes that’s really all we need these movies to be.

Bad Boys For Life opens in theaters Friday, January 17.

Director(s): Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Jacob Scipio, Alexander Ludwig, Kate del Castillo, Joe Pantoliano, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Nicky Jam, DJ Khaled.

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Odell Beckham Jr. #13 of the Cleveland Browns warms up prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 22, 2019 in Cleveland, Ohio.
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College Football Officials Pondering Policy Changes After Incident With Odell Beckham Jr.

A domino effect might be on the horizon after Odell Beckham Jr.'s encounter with LSU players and a security officer that led to arrest warrants and debates about possible NCAA violations.

Speaking to USA Today Sports Thursday (Jan 16) executive director Bill Hancock said officials from the College Football Playoff will investigate practices that allow non-players to engage with players on the sidelines during events such as the national semifinals and championship games.

“Being on the sidelines is a privilege,” Hancock told the outlet. “Along with any privilege comes responsibility, because the focus should be on the people playing and coaching in the game, rather than on any visitors. The CFP will be reviewing its policy for allowing guests onto the sidelines and into locker rooms at future games.”

While the LSU Tigers beat Clemson Monday to secure a spot in the national championship, all eyes were on the Cleveland Browns wide receiver for handing out money to players and slapping the buttocks of a Superdome security guard. The incident took place in the LSU locker room. It was initially reported that the money was fake but it was confirmed that the money was actually real.

Video of the incident went viral and just a few days later, New Orleans Police Department public affairs officer Juan Barnes confirmed that the security guard filed the complaint. An arrest warrant for simple battery was issued against Beckham Jr. on Thursday.

The NFL star and former LSU player possibly committed an NCAA violation "if it’s determined athletes with eligibility remaining received cash," USA Today Sports mentions. OBJ and his representatives are cooperating with authorities, the Browns said in a statement.

Statement regarding Odell Beckham Jr. incident: pic.twitter.com/7cN3jOLCj6

— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) January 16, 2020

LSU will now investigate the incident to confirm if any NCAA violations were committed and if it will affect any of the players seen in the video.

Many have pointed exactly why the officer was in the locker room in the first place. As the players were celebrating their big win, the security guard allegedly threatened the players who were smoking cigars in the locker room. Stephen A. Smith reacted to the news and the NCAA possible violation as "bogus."

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Jim Jones Hints At A Dipset Movie

With recent individual projects from Cam’ron and Jim Jones gaining widespread acclaim, the latter East Coast rap veteran plans to keep that momentum going with this latest news. According to XXL Magazine, Jones hinted at a movie on their rap collective Dipset, which formed in the late 90s but rose to mainstream prominence in the 2000s.

“We started this as young teenagers. We would’ve never thought that we did what we did and ended up where we are and we’re still here today making money off this industry that we dreamed of being in," he said during an interview on Nick Cannon's Power 106 show. "People know we make music and there’s always a nostalgic value when we pop out and do music. But I do believe we got a story that needs to be seen in hip-hop like no other. I know people have a lot of their own glory story, but we really have an action flick that needs to be told.”

Dipset, which is comprised of Cam’ron, Jim Jones, Freekey Zeekey, Juelz Santana, and former members 40 Cal., Hell Rell, and J.R. Writer, churned out hit after hit like “Hey Ma (Remix),” “Real Ni**as,” "Family Ties," “Dipset Anthem,” “I’m Ready,” “Crunk Muzik,” and more.

A Dipset film will not head to production until Santana’s release from prison, Jones also noted. Santana was sentenced to two years in prison for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. He was also found guilty of possession of a controlled substance. According to his partner Kimbella, Santana is expected to be released in summer 2020.

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