Craig Mack, known for first putting Sean “Diddy” Combs’s Bad Boy record label on the map with his iconic single “Flava in Ya Ear,” died Monday at the age of 47.
Mack died around 9 p.m. Monday in Walterboro, S.C., Colleton County Coroner Richard Harvey told the Associated Press. The wire service initially reported he was 46.
The New York rapper’s summer 1994 single became an instant hit and turned into a must-play classic and hip-hop anthem.
The subsequent remix included a breakout guest verse from Notorious B.I.G., whose “Ready to Die” album dropped a week before Mack’s full-length debut, “Project: Funk da World.” LL Cool J, who appeared on the popular “Flava in Ya Ear” remix, wrote a tribute on Twitter:
Mack was signed to Bad Boy after Diddy heard him freestyle outside a Manhattan club.
“Craig is hip-hop’s George Clinton, because his stuff is really off the wall,” Diddy told the New York Times in 1995. “He does what’s from his heart, which is where it starts for him. But his energy comes from somewhere else.”
The rapper left Bad Boy and released his second album, “Operation: Get Down,” in 1997, before departing from the music industry altogether to devote his life to religion.
But he apparently was working on new projects. Erick Sermon of rap group EPMD, who knew Mack since his breakout, tweeted that Mack was working on new music.
I'm devastated over the news of Craig Mack.. We just finishing up his new album.. smh.. Rest in Power Craig...— Erick Sermon (@iAmErickSermon) March 13, 2018
Mack also had been participating in a documentary about his life, including his decision to leave music and focus on his faith. Toney told the Daily News he saw Mack last week at his South Carolina church to film the documentary.
“Nobody got to understand his story,” Toney told the outlet. “I wanted the world to know the talent he had. It was something I wanted people to enjoy, but it was cut short because he was very religious and wanted to go to church.”
DJ Scratch wrote on Instagram that Mack had “just reached out a couple of weeks ago for me to speak on his documentary about his life.” Mack was Scratch’s tour roadie, helping set up and break down his turntables each night.
“I just got a disturbing phone call. I cannot believe this dude is gone,” Scratch wrote early Tuesday morning. “Rest In Peace Lil Bro.”
During Toney’s visit, the producer said, Mack told Toney that he had been sick for a long time and knew he wouldn’t live long.
“He was prepared for whatever comes, to go home to the Lord,” Toney told the Daily News. “He wasn’t scared. He was ready.”
Word of his death spread across the hip-hop world Tuesday, which in recent years has mourned the early passing of other pioneers: Prodigy of Mobb Deep, who died in June at 42 from sickle cell anemia-related complications, and Phife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, who died in 2016 at 45 from complications of diabetes.
“To be In hip hop culture & live past the age of 50 is a fight to the finish for real,” Questlove wrote on Instagram, adding that “Flava In Ya Ear” was freestylers’ first “viral instrumental choice.”
“We cannot forget one of the greatest hip hop single debuts in the culture. That song was the gym routine mc’s brushed their skills on.”
Musicians, critics and fans alike praised Mack’s flow and spoke of his impact on the genre:
“Rest in Peace to the genesis of Bad Boy,” producer 9th Wonder wrote.
“Just ....... like ........ Uninlab.” He won off top with the first three words. Rest In Peace Craig Mack. 😞— PHAROAHE MONCH (@pharoahemonch) March 13, 2018
RIP Craig Mack THE LEGEND 🙏🏿— juicy j (@therealjuicyj) March 13, 2018
1994, lunch.— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) March 13, 2018
Me: I don't get Flava In Ya Ear. He's behind the beat.
My friend @evanhr: Or maybe Craig Mack has a new flow, and your brain literally isn't ready for it.
*5 hours later*
Me: KICKIN..MAD...FLAVA...IN YA EARRRR
*Evan was right*#RIPCraigMack
“RIP Craig Mack, Bad Boy’s first album artist. He had two perfect singles and the platonic rap remix. That’s more than most,” tweeted Biz Markie, who then quoted the iconic intro to Mack’s 1994 hit: “May he kick that ol’ robotic, futuristic, George Jetson crazy s— in the infinite.”
Rest in Beats Craig Mack— Chuck D (@MrChuckD) March 13, 2018
I am so sad to hear about the passing of Craig Mack. You cannot over emphasize the importance that "Flava In Ya Ear" had on hip hop!— Peter Rosenberg (@Rosenbergradio) March 13, 2018
He was a part of the famed BIG Mack marketing promo that helped launch Bad Boy + he single-handedly put the label on the board with Flava in Ya Ear. There was nothing at the time that sounded like that record; spacey beat and that oft-kilter, deliberate flow. He set the stage. pic.twitter.com/v9bfxdUQDb— Jayson 🇵🇷 (@jaysonrodriguez) March 13, 2018
I still remember the first time I heard Flava in your ear remix. Fell in love with hip hop in that moment. R.I.P Craig Mack.. 🙏🏾— Victor Cruz (@TeamVic) March 13, 2018
Rest in Peace CRAIG MACK. Long Island's own. We were proud of Craig when he came out with the little indie song as MC EZ & TROUP. Then a few years later he went on to make one of the biggest most iconic songs in Hip Hop history. Rest EZ. Never forgotten. We love ya bro— R.A. the Rugged Man (@RAtheRuggedMan) March 13, 2018
Correction: The Associated Press originally reported that Mack died at the age of 46. They have since corrected his age to 47. This post has been updated.