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Craig Mack, early "Bad Boy" rap star, dies in South Carolina at 46

Craig Mack, who was one of the earliest breakout stars on Sean "P. Diddy" Combs' Bad Boy Records in the mid-1990s and then faded from the music scene at least partly by choice,  died on Monday.

The 46-year-old New York native passed away from heart failure at a hospital in South Carolina, where he'd moved in recent years, the Daily News confirmed with his producer.

"God bless my friend. He was a good friend of mine,” Alvin Toney, who produced Mack’s debut album “Project: Funk Da World," told the newspaper.

Mack started rapping under the name MC EZ in the late 1980s, according to Rolling Stone. He met Diddy , who was then in the process of forming Bad Boy Records outside the New York club Mecca and impressed him with his freestyling. Signed to a contract,  he found instant fame with his 1994 song "Flava in Ya Ear." It sold over a million copies, was nominated for a Grammy and spawned a remix Who's Who of rap remix featuring Notorious B.I.G, LL Cool J, , Busta Rhymes and Rampage.

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The news of Mack's passing had tributes pouring in from all over -- and all settings:

Born in Queens, Mack told the New York Times his cousins got him into rap at age nine and he soon started writing his own lyrics.

"I knew I wanted to be like LL Cool J and Run-D.M.C.," Mack told the Times in 1995. That was the same year he left Bad Boy, and although he released a solo album, "Operation Get Down" in 1997, he couldn't replicate his earlier fame. He later left music for religion, becoming a member of Overcomer Ministry church in Walterboro, S.C.

There, he seemed to have moved on from rap, Rolling Stone says.

"In Can't Stop, Won't Stop: The Bad Boy Story, the 2017 documentary chronicling the rise of Combs' revered label and reunion tour, " the magazine wrote, "Mack can be heard discussing the possibility of returning to the stage, but declined because of his religious beliefs."



About the Author

Jill Vejnoska has spent two decades as a news and features reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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