I wasn’t ready for this one. Not that you’re ever quite ready to hear that one of the celebrated MC’s from your youth has passed away.
Those of us in our late thirties to mid-forties remember exactly where we were when “Flava In Ya Ear” hit the airwaves July 1994.
It was an uneventful Cali summer for me, going into the eleventh grade. I remember chillin’ with the homies listening to 92.3 The Beat, wishing I could go to Summer Jam, which had the sickest lineup that year. Dope chart toppers were scheduled to perform, from Nas, Wu Tang and Gangstarr to OutKast, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Public Enemy (not to mention all of my R&B faves).
I never made it to the concert, but that was the summer I became mesmerized by that Easy Mo Bee instant classic track that put Bad Boy Records on the map. Here it is, almost twenty five years later and that old robotic, futuristic, George Jetson, crazy joint is still one of the illest cuts DJs will drop in their sets!
We’re all familiar with Craig Mack’s claim to fame solidifying that first hit for Puffy and Bad Boy. In a statement for Rolling Stone, Diddy left a touching tribute to his early protege: “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 I will continue to try to keep inspiring others. We will always love you.” With both hallmark artists gone, first Notorious B.I.G. and now Craig Mack, it’s truly the end of an era for the Bad Boy label. I can only imagine the poignant reflections Puff must be processing considering the anniversary of Big’s death on March 9th.
But as a fan, I can’t help but point out the trend it seems we’re facing in losing our classic Hip Hop legends in middle age. I was talking to my 74-year-old pops about Craig Mack’s untimely passing, and his reply was, “Wow, it seems like every time I look up, another rapper has died from health complications.” It does feel like too many of our favorites are tragically going to meet their maker in record numbers.
I think back to a handful of notables from the music industry who have succumbed to medical illness just over the last three years: Prodigy, Phife Dawg, Prince Be of P.M. Dawn, Big Kap, DJ Crazy Toones, Fresh Kid Ice, Koopsta Knicca of Three 6 Mafia, Educated Rapper, Benjy Melendez, Kool DJ AJ, Pam The Funkstress, Charmayne “Maxee” Maxwell of Brownstone, Vanity, Kashif, Joseph “Joey” Robinson Jr. of Sugarhill Records, and the recently departed attorney-turned-podcaster Reggie “Combat Jack” Ossé. It begins to put things in a somber perspective when it comes to drawing these connections while factoring in age.
Sources of recent deaths:
Sometimes diagnoses such as cancer and sickle cell anemia can only be managed for so long when it comes to battling life-threatening illness. There are countless variables and factors that make it futile to draw blanket statements on why certain individuals don’t survive the battle. Other illnesses like diabetes, stroke and heart disease are better managed through positive lifestyle choices, healthy eating and self-care.
Having strong faith, a trusted medical team and supportive loved ones can also prove to be transformative. Craig Mack’s cause of death is being reported as Congestive Heart Failure, which is hard to wrap your mind around considering his age of 46. Some fans are calling into question if this is truly the case, and I can understand why. Granted, I hadn’t heard much about Mack in the last few years, so I have no idea of his post-Bad Boy life.
But to learn that his death was related to heart disease just stirs the pot of concern for those of us in his age range, given that he was less than ten years older than me. Like most people, I think of Congestive Heart Failure as a disease of the elderly, something my grandparents suffered from. But in clicking through a few articles and medical webpages, I came across these startling statistics that put heart disease in a completely different light. According to Emory Healthcare:
- Nearly 5 million Americans are currently living with congestive heart failure (CHF).
- Congestive heart failure affects people of ALL ages, from children and young adults to the middle-aged and the elderly.
- Almost 1.4 million persons with CHF are under 60 years of age.
- CHF is present in 2 percent of persons age 40 to 59.
- The incidence of CHF is equally frequent in men and women, and African-Americans are 1.5 times more likely to develop heart failure than Caucasians.
The Center for Disease Control points to unhealthy lifestyle behaviors in increasing one’s risk of heart failure, including: smoking tobacco; eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium; and not getting enough physical activity. Being obese certainly doesn’t help. But, as long as you receive an early diagnosis and begin treatment as soon as possible, the CDC reports that your quality and length of life can actually improve.
This may mean taking medications you aren’t used to, embracing a restricted diet, and increasing your daily physical activities. But, from what I’ve read, there are roads to recovery from CHF in younger or middle aged adults if you are proactive in the battle for your life. Better yet, let’s commit to living our best lives out here in these 2018 streets so that CHF isn’t even on our radar as young and middle aged Black folks.
I’m really saddened that Craig Mack’s story ended this way. And, more details surrounding his passing, like in most cases, may emerge to gain a better understanding of his last few years. Long time friend and collaborator, Alvin Toney, who produced his debut album, Project: Funk Da World, is reportedly working on a documentary on Mack’s life.
The subject of the film will explore his decision to leave the world of Hip Hop due to his deep religious convictions, and will likely shine a brighter spotlight on his true legacy.
Toney says that Mack had been ill for some time. In one of their last conversations, he confided in his friend that he was “prepared” and even “ready,” come what may as he approached his final days. As fans, inspired artists and fellow legends of the Hip Hop community mourn his passing, we will always continue to celebrate Craig Mack’s undeniable “Flava” on the culture.
– Contributed by Mai Perkins
Mai Perkins, aka FlyMai, is Cali girl in a Bed Stuy world with global bon vivant flair and the passport stamps to prove it. She currently works in Edtech, and is the author of several blogs including Uberlicious.nyc and MaiOnTheMove.com and is a columnist for the music publication Pop-Mag.com.
With an MFA in Creative Writing from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in International Affairs from The New School Milano, she reps her beloved alma mater Howard University every chance she gets. As a poet and a creative non-fiction writer, she looks forward to soon publishing her first manuscript, The Walking Nerve-Ending.
Twitter: @flymai on Twitter