When it comes to rap, Bad Boy Records is a name that will be among the first to be mentioned when discussing the most storied and influential brands of the '90s. Establishing itself as a formidable power with the release of the Notorious B.I.G.'s seminal debut, 'Ready to Die,' the house that Puff built would go on to produce a number of illustrious acts, etching their logo in stone as the crew of the '90s. But one name that is often overlooked if at all mentioned is Craig Mack.
Known in most circles as a one-hit wonder and that guy in G Dep's 'Special Delivery Remix' video, at a time, he was Bad Boy's number two prospect and packaged as the artist that, along with Biggie, would bring the label to prominence and usher in the Bad Boy era. Well, things didn't go exactly as planned.
While Big went on to become one of the biggest stars in rap seemingly overnight, Craig Mack was relegated to the background. His debut album, 'Project: Funk Da World,' released on Sept. 20, 1994, would earn him a gold plaque for his efforts, but the mass critical and commercial success of 'Ready to Die' completely overshadowed the album and by the time of Biggie's death, it faded into obscurity and was all but forgotten.
Since today marks 20 years since the release of this footnote in hip-hop history, we dust off this relic to find out if the album got a raw deal and stands the test of time.
Following a short intro, Craig Mack begins the proceedings with the self-produced title track. Featuring a sample of Hamilton Bohannon's 'Save Their Souls,' Mack drops a series of nondescript lines that fail to enthrall or connect with the listener, getting the project off to a rocky and dismal start.
Mack attempts to redeem himself with the follow-up cut, 'Get Down.' Produced by Easy Mo Bee, the rapper fits the track like a glove, spitting, "Betcha figure you got more funk for flow / It ain't so / 'Flava in Ya Ear' letcha know /
Now I'm about a second, from the hook / Strap ya rap book / Before you get ya wet style shook." Showcasing his malleable flow, 'Get Down' is definitely a winner and offers some promise that this LP won't end up a complete letdown.
'Making Moves With Puff'Feat. Puff Daddy
The Rashad Smith-produced 'Making Moves With Puff' is definitely a pleasant surprise upon listening. Featuring a sample of Stevie Wonder's 'If It's Magic' and light snares, Mack drops serviceable lines like "I'm like the greatest rapper known to man / Got MCs dropping in my mouth and not inside my hand / And you try to write a rhyme / But the pace that I race will have you looking like an old-timer / Do you wanna pay a visit, the rhyme exquisite / That'll leave you standing cooler than a winter blizzard." Puff also makes one of, if not the first appearance as an actual artist on a track, so blame Craig Mack for helping to jumpstart the phenomenon that is Diddy with this song.
Things get off track again with the Lenny Marrow and Craig Mack co-produced 'That Y'all.' Featuring a clunky beat, porous lyrics and an annoying, cliche of a hook, this number leaves much to be desired to say the least.
The star-studded remix may get all of the accolades, but the original album version of 'Flava In Ya Ear' is no chump either. The first single released from 'Project: Funk Da World,' the Easy Mo Bee-produced track is a sure shot headbanger and one of the finer productions of '94. Craig Mack also rises to the occasion with witty couplets like "Craig Mack, 1,000 degrees / You'll be on your knees and you'll be burning, begging 'please' / Brother freeze, mans undisputed and deep rooted / Funk smoke will leave ya brains booted," pummeling the beat from beginning to end.
'Funk Wit Da Style' sees Mack tackling the same 'Blind Alley' sample popularized by Big Daddy Kane, but with differing results. While 'Ain't No Half Steppin'' was nothing less than superb, this joint is nothing more than cutting room floor material, with Craig Mack all but getting drowned out by the beat. As a result, we're left to hit the skip button.
'Judgement Day' is a much-needed injection of life into 'Project: Funk Da World' after the previous snoozer. With Easy Mo Bee on the boards, this track is highly reminiscent of 'Flava In Ya Ear,' but we'll excuse it as Craig Mack comes through with one of the better selections on the project.
Craig Mack's hand remains hot on the self-produced 'Real Raw.' With a booming beat powered by a sample of Skull Snap's 'It's A New Day,' Mack gets busy, dropping steady lines like "Service with the wild style, freak a smile / I'm crazier than ever, please pull my leather / Ooh, I can't wait, I'm paid, I see 'em / Brothers on my jock, a G for per diem." As the hook suggests, Mack gets real raw with his hardcore stylings on this one and gets our head nod of approval.
Easy Mo Bee blesses Craig Mack with a monster of a beat with the thundering 'Mainline.' While the track is the real star on this outing, Mack plays game manager, dropping efficient lines that don't wow upon a first listen. However, you're also not left you with the "What in the hell was that?" face post-listening making this a decent, but uneventful offering.
We get what is arguably 'Project: Funk Da World's finest track via the Easy Mo Bee-produced 'When God Comes.' On the track, Craig Mack contemplates what will happen to all the sucker MCs, culture vulture corporations and the world as a whole when judgement day arrives. Poignant bars like "Brothers in the ghetto stop genociding / 'Cause the same boat we ride in will do like the Poseidon / I watch the earth's cheese line getting longer / I watch allegiance to Satan's army getting stronger / I watched drugs and guns take control / I even watched the devil took the black woman's soul" make this track a winner and leaves us wondering why it's not more heralded than it is.
'Project: Funk Da World' closes with the Craig Mack-produced 'Welcome to 1994.' The outro doesn't do him any favors, forcing you to press stop out of frustration and disinterest, ultimately ending Craig Mack's effort to 'Funk Da World,' and ending the project on a sour note.
Stand the Test of Time?
As a whole, 'Project: Funk Da World' is underwhelming at best. While tracks like 'Get Down,' 'Judgement Day' and 'When God Comes' show flashes of promise, more than not, the songs are uneventful and hit or miss. Mack is less than impressive in the lyrical department as well, delivering three lackluster rhymes for every hot quotable. Craig Mack will forever have a spot in rap lore due to the slice of heaven that is 'Flava In Ya Ear,' but sadly, for 'Project: Funk Da World' the same cannot be said.