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.
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.”