#ThrowbackThursday: Remembering Bad Boy Records’ First Artist, Craig MackCraig Mack “Project Funk Da World” Bad Boy/Arista Records
By Craig Clizbe
Earlier this week the Hip Hop world was shaken when it was reported that Long Island, New York rapper, Craig Mack died on Monday March 12, 2018. He was just 46 years old. Mack was best known as the first artist released on Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment in July of 1994. He died from heart failure at a hospital near his home at Walterboro, South Carolina. His passing was confirmed by his long time friend and collaborator Alvin Toney who remembered Mack in an interview with the NY Dailey News. “God bless my friend. He was a good friend of mine,”
In that same article it was reported that Toney saw Craig Mack for the last time last week when he visited the him at the Overcomer Ministry church in Walterboro to film a documentary about Mack, and his decision to pass on fame for a life of devotion to religion.
Toney said Mack told him during his visit that he had been ill for some time and knew he wouldn’t live long.
“He was prepared for whatever comes, to go home to the Lord,” Toney said. “He was prepared to do that. He wasn’t scared. He was ready.”
In a statement released on Tuesday this week, Bad Boy Records founder and music mogul, Sean Combs remembered Craig Mack and his contribution to the Bad Boy legacy.
“Craig Mack, you were the first artist to release music on Bad Boy and gave us our first hit. You always followed your heart and you had an energy that was out of this world. You believed in me and you believed in Bad Boy. I will never forget what you did for hip-hop. You inspired me and will continue to inspire us. We will always love you. “
Throughout the early to mid 90s Craig Mack appeared on tracks alongside several stars of Hip Hop and R&B of that era like Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, LL Cool J and Notorious B.I.G. But he will forever be hold a place in music history thanks to his debut single, the subject of this week’s #TBT “Flava In Ya Ear.”
As I mentioned previously “Flava In Ya Ear” was the first single to ever be released on Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment. It was famously part of Puffys “B.I.G. Mack” pitch meeting for the label distribution deal with Clive Davis and his Arista Records in 1993. That meeting led to the launch of Bad Boy Entertainment after Combs was suddenly fired from Uptown/MCA Records only weeks before. Combs had previously featured both Craig Mack and The Notorious B.I.G, on Uptown’s Who’sThe Man? Soundtrack, (B.I.G. contributed his hood classic, “Party And Bullsh**”, and Craig appeared on the remix for Mary J. Blige’s “You Don’t Have To Worry”) so in return he took both B.I.G. and Mack with him when it came time to launch Bad Boy with Clive Davis.
Mary J. Blige Featuring Craig Mack
“You Don’t Have To Worry” (Remix)
From Who’s The Man ? Soundtrack
The Notorious B.I.G.
“Party And Bull Sh**” (Explicit)
From Who’s The Man ? Soundtrack
“Flava In Ya Ear” was released on July 26, 1994 just weeks before B.I.G. would release his iconic first single, “Juicy.” It was the first single from Craig Mack’s debut album, Project Funk Da World, and was produced by one of Puffy’s original hit men Easy Mo Bee. Mo Bee was previously known for his work with Big Daddy Kane and Miles Davis. The single started the tradition of Bad Boy Records reworking famous older Pop songs and twisting them with cleaver samples for melodic commercially driven Hip Hop for the 90s. It contains a sample of “We’ve Only Just Begun” by O’Del Levy, (made famous by The Carpenters), and got plenty of radio play at a time, helping foster the next phase of Sean “Puffy” Combs’ career as not only a label head, but also a producer and remixer. When the single was released it had several remixes accompany it on its official club single, among those was the official remix that featured guest verses from other rappers like Craig Mack’s label mate, Notorious B.I.G., Def Jam legend, LL Cool J, and Flipmode rappers, Busta Rhymes and Rampage.
That also included one of the first examples of Puffy’s signature ad libs for branding that would not only set the framework for the future of Bad Boy’s formula, but its success would would set the blueprint for how Hip Hop would be branded throughout Pop culture with super producers that would follow like The Neptunes and Timbaland. The success of the “Flava In Ya Ear Remix” was unprecedented, helping Craig Mack reach platinum status, Topping the Billboard Hot Rap Songs Chart. It also reached #4 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Chart as well as #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 overall.
That success helped Craig Mack’s debut album, Project Funk Da World achieve Gold sales status when it was released via Bad Boy/Arista Records in September of 1994. Craig Mack would part ways with Puffy before releasing his follow up album Operation: Get Down in 1997, however his impact on Bad Boy’s legacy would continue to be felt in the years that followed.
The song appeared on Bad Boy’s 10th Anniversary… The Hits album. The remix version of the song also appears in the video game Dance Central for the Xbox 360. In addition, the record can be heard in films such as The Notorious B.I.G.’s 2009 biopic Notorious, and N.W.A.’s 2015 biopic Straight Outta Compton.
“Flava in Ya Ear” inspired Pop stars year later, when it was sampled by other artists like the Backstreet Boys for the European version of their debut album in 1996, and fueled a #1 hit for Jennifer Lopez and Ja Rule in 2002, for the remix of her single single “Ain’t It Funny.”
So as we take the time to reflect on Craig Mack’s passing, enjoy this week’s Throwback, “Flava In Ya Ear” by Craig Mack. Rest In Peace Craig, thank you for the music!
“Flava In Ya Ear”
From Project Funk Da World
Bad Boy/Arista Records
Craig Mack Featuring The Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J, Rampage and Busta Rhymes
“Flava In Ya Ear” (Remix)
Bad Boy/Arista Records
“Don’t Leave Me”
From Backstreet Boys (1996 European Version)
Jennifer Lopez Featuring Ja Rule And Caddillac Tah
“Ain’t It Funny” (Muder Remix)
From J to tha L–O! The Remixes