Mack, who launched to hip-hop acclaim with the platinum summer hit “Flava in Ya Ear” in 1994, died of heart failure at a hospital near his Walterboro, S.C., home Monday.
“God bless my friend. He was a good friend of mine,” said Alvin Toney, who produced Mack’s debut album “Project: Funk Da World” and his "Get Down Remix."
Toney saw his dear friend one final time last week.
He visited the former emcee at the Overcomer Ministry church he attends in Walterboro to film a documentary about the retired rhymer, and his decision to pass on fame for a life of deep religious conviction.
“Nobody got to understand his story,” Toney said. “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.”
Tony said Mack then told him that he had been ill for some time.
“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.”
Mack is survived by a wife and two children, both adults, Toney said.
As a boy, the Suffolk County native dreamed of making it big like LL Cool J and Run DMC, according to a New York Times profile of Mack.
Mack’s short-lived career shined bright with the help of Diddy, then known under his first pseudonym Puff Daddy.
The Bad Boy Entertainment founder met the aspiring artist at the Manhattan club Mecca and promised to sign him if he could freestyle to Mary J. Blige. Mack did not disappoint.
Soon, Mack’s first hit, “Flava In Ya Ear,” was born. The mix featured Diddy’s other New York star, The Notorious B.I.G., who was shot and killed in 1997. Diddy declared the two the foundation of his iconic record label.
“This is my life here,” Diddy said, gesturing to Biggie Smalls and Mack during an interview with MTV Raps. “We all need each other to live and breath. That’s the way we treat each other.”
A rep for Diddy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mack’s death rocked the biggest names of New York hip-hop. “Rest In Peace! Good brother,” tweeted Funkmaster Flex, the Hot 97 DJ who shared Mack’s hits on the NYC station.
Brooklyn’s DJ Scratch remembered Mack as the hardworking roadie who helped set up and break down his turntables on tours.
“I cannot believe this dude is gone,” said DJ Scratch, the stage name for George Spivey. “He just reached out a couple of weeks ago for me to speak on his documentary about his life.”
“Rest In Peace Lil Bro,” he wrote in an Instagram post.
Like Mack, “Just A Friend” rapper Biz Markie got his start on Long Island.
“R.I.P TO MY MAIN MAN CRAIG MACK ANOTHER GREAT ONE GONE,” he wrote.