Craig Mack, the New York rapper who scored a 1994 hit with Flava in Ya Ear, has died of heart failure, aged 46.
Mack grew up in Brentwood, Long Island, and recorded his earliest work as MC EZ. Via an introduction from rap group EPMD, he became one of the many proteges of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, who released Mack’s album Project: Funk da World in 1994.
It contained the single Flava in Ya Ear, the remix of which reached the US Top 10 thanks in part to an all-star cast of guest rappers: the Notorious BIG, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J and Rampage.
Flava in Ya Ear was the first release on Combs’ label Bad Boy Records, which became one of the most significant in hip-hop history, launching the careers of the Notorious BIG, Mase, Faith Evans, Janelle Monáe and French Montana.
Mack never matched the track’s success. His follow-up single Get Down was a modest hit, but his second album, 1997’s Operation: Get Down, merely scraped the US Top 50.
He later moved to South Carolina, where he became an evangelical Christian. He was filmed decrying his former life as “wickedness”, but did release an album in 2017, The Mack World Sessions.
Following Mack’s death, the rapper Erick Sermon tweeted: “I’m devastated … we just finishing up his new album.”
His friend and former producer Alvin Toney told the New York Daily News that Mack “was prepared for whatever comes, to go home to the Lord. He was prepared to do that. He wasn’t scared. He was ready.”
Other peers have paid tribute to him online. Hip-hop DJ Funkmaster Flex saying “rest in peace”, and DJ Peter Rosenberg saying, “You cannot over emphasise the importance that Flava in Ya Ear had on hip-hop.”