Mr. Mack was the first rapper to release music on Bad Boy, which would become one of the definitive New York rap labels of the 1990s and the foundation of a multiplatform empire for Mr. Combs.
There was no one who sounded like Mr. Mack; he rapped in a bellowing, woozy slur that took on unusual shapes, like a record moving from one speed to another. “Flava in Ya Ear,” produced by Easy Mo Bee, was a potent, wobbly funk vamp, and Mr. Mack cavorted atop it with a string of non sequitur boasts and insults: “You’re crazy like that glue/ To think that you could outdo my one-two/ That’s sick like the flu.”
“Flava in Ya Ear” went to No. 1 on the Billboard rap songs chart and No. 9 on the Hot 100. It was also named single of the year at the 1995 Source Awards and nominated for a 1995 Grammy in the best rap solo performance category. It was the lead single from Mr. Mack’s strong debut album, “Project: Funk Da World.”
It was to be his only Bad Boy album. It was released a week after the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Ready to Die,” also on Bad Boy, which became one of the most important hip-hop albums of all time. In the months leading up to the releases, Mr. Combs sometimes marketed the two artists together with a fast-food-themed promotion campaign: “B.I.G. Mack.”
The Notorious B.I.G. also appeared on the remix of “Flava in Ya Ear,” one of the essential remixes of the 1990s, with a stark black-and-white music video — an early high-profile production by the director Hype Williams — that was an arresting, mature shift in tone for the genre.
The long shadow of the Notorious B.I.G. proved difficult to escape, and Mr. Mack parted ways with Bad Boy. In 1997 he released a little-heard second album, “Operation: Get Down.”
On occasion, Mr. Mack would reappear on Bad Boy projects — a quick cameo in the video for Mr. Combs’s “I Need a Girl (Part One),” a torrid verse on the remix of G. Dep’s “Special Delivery.”
He continued recording music under his own Mack World Records imprint, two collections of which were eventually released: “Operation Why2K?” in 2012 and “The Mack World Sessions” last year. He had lately been working on music with the producer Erick Sermon of EPMD.
Information on survivors was not immediately available.
In recent years, another calling brought Mr. Mack to Walterboro, a city of about 5,000 in the South Carolina Lowcountry. Fervently religious, he became a follower of the Overcomer Ministry. (Its leader, Ralph G. Stair, was arrested on several charges last year, including criminal sexual conduct.)
In a video posted on YouTube in 2016, Mr. Mack is seen giving testimony at a service while Mr. Stair grips him. Without musical accompaniment and with parishioners urging him on, Mr. Mack raps, “See, praising the Lord’s easy for me/ Craig Mack’s right where he’s supposed to be.” He continues:
If I stayed in New York, it’s just another tragedy
So God cleaned me up, while y’all were still raggedy
Sore as a cavity, depravity, you’re facing calamity
Your ego on a high like we ain’t got gravity
Your majesty, please forgive
This world gives you death, but I wanna live.