1 Year After Craig Mack’s Passing, Look Back At Another Song That Has Flava
One year ago today (March 12, 2018), the late-night news of Craig Mack’s passing felt like an essential piece of 1990s Rap fabric was ostensibly gone forever. The 47-year-old Long Island, New York representative died from natural causes. His legacy was connected to the genre’s elite from the genesis of his career as the EPMD-affiliated “MC EZ” through being Bad Boy Records’ first flagship artist.
Meanwhile, like many 1980s and 1990s veterans, Craig Mack’s impact on the genre may have seemed lost in the mainstream discussion at the time of his passing. Although he periodically checked back in, just as he did on Erick Sermon’s “Come Thru” single in January of 2018, Craig had shrugged off the industry that, according to many, had already treated him poorly time and time again. He relocated to South Carolina, and tended to his faith. It was part of a personal and spiritual journey following a reportedly long and bumpy road since a perceived fallout with Combs and Bad Boy. However, even in places of worship, Craig Mack was undeniably an MC.
Sean “Puffy” Combs helped bring Mack to stardom with his gold-selling debut album Project: Funk Da World and platinum single “Flava In Your Ear” (including its blockbuster remix). Both the LP and single put Bad Boy in the driver’s seat for East Coast Hip-Hop’s resurgence, and Mack kick-started the steamroll for the brand on wax and in his music videos. However, during Bad Boy’s 1994 “Big-Mack” campaign, Biggie’s “Juicy” offering shifted attention, and fast.
After parting ways with Bad Boy in the mid-’90s, Craig Mack did still make music. He followed with a sophomore album. Twenty years after that, he was said to be at work with Erick Sermon on more material at the time of his passing. Moving to the independent Scotti Bros./Street Life label for 1997’s Operation: Get Down, the spotlight on Craig Mack had dimmed by the industry standards, even if the talent had not.
By the June release, Biggie was murdered in Los Angeles three months prior. Apart from Puffy and Faith Evans, Bad Boy’s roster and sound already looked vastly different from its 1994 breakthrough. Much of Rap was changing its direction and content. Now working with Eric B. and a production ensemble including Johnny J (Tupac, Thug Life, Candyman) and Ty Fyffe (Wreckx-N-Effect, JAY-Z), and Prince Markie Dee (aka Mark Morales), Craig Mack still had clever bars and command with the microphone.
Look no further than “Today’s Forecast,” a concept track and Fyffe production. Mack compares himself to a descriptive assortment of weather and natural disasters. “I’ma reign, reign forever / Rain like bad weather,” proclaims the MC. He likens his cold style to a Siberian tundra, his voice to thunder, and his delivery to a volcanic eruption. Twenty-one years later, fans would learn the truth in the statement. Craig’s delivery uses pauses and inflection to do exactly as he had during his captivating 1994 run. The love of Hip-Hop, concept, and rhyming had not changed. Only the industry and the platform had.
While Craig suggested being excluded from the party on this album, he refused to be bitter. Notably, Puffy’s rival, Suge Knight, had attempted to sign Mack to the fledgling Death Row East. After a series of events including Tupac’s death and Knight’s incarceration, that is not what happened. The label never happened as planned. Even so, Craig could have presumably secured other options. However, the 10-plus-year-veteran wanted creative control. He wanted to steer the engine.
One year after Craig Mack’s death, Heads are still playing his music. An artist once mistaken for a one-hit-wonder is instead a symbol of Rap industry endurance, autonomy, and talent. From here to eternity, Craig’s raps will funk the world.
Additional Reporting by Jake Paine.