Just days after hip-hop marked the death anniversary of The Notorious B.I.G. on March 9, the rap world mourns the loss of another one, as former Bad Boy rapper Craig Mack passed away on Monday night (Mar. 12). Mack was 46, and is best known for his groundbreaking debut “Flava in Ya Ear (Remix)” with guest appearances by Biggie himself, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes and Rampage. The music video, shot in black-and-white by director Craig Henry, also features cameos by Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, Keisha Epps, Mary J. Blige and Irv Gotti, among others.
“I always wanted to make a video with science fiction as the theme,” comments Henry in VIBE’s August 1994 issue, outside of the New York Hall of Science in Queens. Cinematographer Lisa Leone continues:
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.
The song became a milestone for Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Entertainment, receiving a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Solo Performance at the 37th Grammy Awards in 1995. The song ultimately lost to “U.N.I.T.Y.” by Queen Latifah. Appearing on Bad Boy’s 10th Anniversary… The Hits, “Flava in Ya Ear” peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was certified platinum by the RIAA, selling 1,000,000 copies in the United States.
The remix went on to soundtrack films such as Notorious and Straight Outta Compton, among others. “Flava in Ya Ear” famously samples “We’ve Only Just Begun” by O’Donel Levy, and was later sampled in the Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule single, “Ain’t It Funny (Murder Remix)” as well as the song “Don’t Leave Me” from the Backstreet Boys.