No rational thinking hip-hop head will argue with the fact that The Notorious B.I.G. built the Bad Boy label (on Puff Daddy’s dime) that dominated east coast hip-hop and r&b during the mid-nineties. His platinum selling debut album, Ready To Die (read my thoughts on that album here) would not only propel him to fame and stardom, but would also help lay the foundation for the success of the rest of the Bad Boy roster, which included his wife, Faith Evans, Total and Mase, just to name a few. While B.I.G.’s definitely the key piece to the label’s initial success, the true cornerstone of Bad Boy is Craig Mack.
The Bronx born and bred emcee Craig Mack first came on the scene in 1988 under the alias MC EZ, as one half of the duo MC EZ & Troup. They released one single that didn’t make much noise and eventually they disbanded. Mack would then connect with EPMD, with whom he would eventually serve as their roadie, but he still had dreams of becoming his own emcee. As fate would have it, Mack would run into Puff Daddy outside of a New York nightclub where he was given the opportunity to rap for the future mogul. Puffy was impressed and would sign him to Bad Boy where he would release the first single on the label, “Flava In Ya Ear” and the second album, Project: Funk Da World (a week after Biggie’s debut album Ready To).
For Project: Funk Da World, Craig Mack and Lenny “Ace” Marrow would handle half of the production, with the wily veteran Easy Mo Bee handling the other half (Rashad Smith would also get credit for one track). “Flava In Ya Ear” would go on to be the biggest hit on Funk Da World and would help power the album to earning a gold plaque. Despite the relative success of Funk Da World, the massive success of Ready To Die would dim Mack’s shine and momentum, and eventually find the Bad Boy pioneer forgotten and off the label. He would return in ’97 with his second album (released on Street Life Records), which failed to produce any hits or move units and the Bronx rapper would fade away into hip-hop’s black hole, forever remembered as a one hit wonder.
Sadly, Craig Mack passed away from heart failure in 2018 at the age of 47. May he rest in peace.
Project: Funk Da World – After an extended intro/skit, a muted bass line and drum beat drops and our host gives us the first dosage of his lackadaisical funk flow. Knock out the first two useless minutes of this song and this is a nice funky little introduction to our bumpy faced host.
Get Down – The first 4o seconds of this song consist of a decent funk instrumental playing while Mack adlibs over it. Then Easy Mo Bee drops a thick bass line, fills it in with drums and the rest of his funky goodies. Craig freaks it lovely with his unorthodox style, because as he puts it “I does what I do”. Though it was nowhere near as big a hit as the lead single “Flava In Ya Ear”, it was a solid second single and in my opinion, an underappreciated song.
Making Moves With Puff – Rashad Smith lays down a breezy melodic instrumental for Mack, who continues to spew freestyle rhymes in his unique mush mouth delivery, while Puffy whispers the refrain. This is far from a great song, but it makes for decent filler material.
That Y’all – This bland Craig Mack/Lenny Marrow produced instrumental sounds like something Mack’s old friend, Erik Sermon threw away and he fished out of the trash can. Mack doesn’t help matters, as his flow, which is already a bit mush mouthed and lazy, is even harder to understand, as he comes off sounding almost drunk. This was a train wreck.
Flava In Ya Ear – This was the lead single from Funk Da World and the biggest hit in Mack’s limited catalog. Mo Bee’s at it again and lays down an infectious funk groove that Craig freaks with ease, showing “stamina like Bruce Jenner, the winner, serving emcees for dinner” (I wonder if our host would have ever imagined that Bruce Jenner would transform into a woman 2o plus years later after he penned this rhyme…time is truly illmatic). The remix, which featured Biggie (who steals the show), Rampage, LL and Busta Rhymes, would be even iller than the O.G. mix, but this is still an undeniable classic.
Funk Wit Da Style – No thanks.
Judgement Day – Easy Mo Bee gives this one a triumphant feel with a solid mid-tempo funk groove (whose bass line slightly resembles the one he used for “Flava In Ya Ear”), as our host calls all emcees to face their judgement. This was solid. It made my head bop…a little bit.
Real Raw – If I was a betting man, I’d be willing to bet that this was one of the first songs recorded on Funk Da World. Mack’s flow is clearer with a more straightforward rhyming style than he uses on the rest of the album. I found it both amusing and sad to hear Craig refer to himself as “grotesque” on the song’s final verse, but the ladies still rub his chest, so fuck it. Craig’s battle rhymes actually sound more convincing with this delivery, and his self-produced backdrop (which samples a piece of the theme song from the long running soap opera Days of Our Lives and turns it into an ill dark loop) sounds great behind his solid bars.
Mainline – I’m not feeling this one at all.
When God Comes – Our host takes a break from his litany of freestyle rhymes and ask the hip-hop community the rhetorical question: What you gonna do when God comes? Mo Bee lays a monster of an instrumental down for Mack to unleash his diatribe over. The emotional horn loop on the hook reminds me of Coltrane’s somber chords at the end of A Love Supreme‘s “Psalm”, and feels like the earth trembling in fear of God’s coming wrath on man for his evil deeds. This is my favorite song on the album, and without ever hearing his second project Operation: Get Down (but don’t fret, I have a copy of it and will listen to it at some point), I’m willing say it’s Mack’s magna opus.
Welcome To 1994 – Why in the world did Craig Mack come back and end Funk Da World with this shit? Whoever sequenced the album should be shot. The album clearly should have ended after “When God Comes”, but if they had to include this drudgery on the album they could have at least stuck it in the beginning or the middle. This song sucks on its own, but its placement makes its godawfulness stand out even more.
On Project: Funk Da World, Craig Mack proves he can rap, but unfortunately that’s all he proves. Mack’s mumbled mouth flow is cute, playful and entertaining on the surface, but after a few listens his tone and cadence become redundant, and at times borderline irritating. With the exception of “When God Comes”, you can literally swap the verses on all the songs and come out with the same results, which means there’s not much variety in Mack’s content and it quickly becomes an endless loop of freestyle rhymes. Production wise, Easy Mo Bee does a decent job with the handful of tracks he handles, and Mack even turns in a few decent joints, but four (arguably five) dope songs out of eleven aren’t impressive results. History has it written that Biggie’s success ended Craig Mack’s career. In reality, Mack’s debut project was too lackluster and just didn’t funk da world the way he intended it to.
Spot on review as usual. The second album is a tough listen but “Jockin my style” and the “What I Need Remix” are dope. You missed the Tribe degrees of seperation, Q-tip produced the dope remix of Get down.
I’d never heard that remix before, but I listened to it yesterday and it’s fire (Tip even spit a verse on it). Thanks for once again hipping me to something new (or old) and reading!
Rest in beats Craig Mack!!
” im incredible you better eat your vegetables cos i does what i do….”