A major player in the mid-’90s resurgence of New York hip-hop, Brentwood, Long Island MC Craig Mack endured his share of ups and downs — cutting a single at seventeen, descending into thug life and snagging a last-ditch job as a gofer for EPMD — before making the lucky career connection with producer/Bad Boy Records entrepreneur Sean “Puffy” Combs outside a Manhattan club. Combs arranged for Mack to rap to Mary J. Blige on her second LP and then oversaw Project: Funk da World, a likable blend of non-gangsta words and unleaded modern grooves buoyed by the late-summer success of “Flava in Ya Ear,” an upbeat anthem vague enough to suit a broad range of funk fans.
Uneven but ingratiating, Project: Funk da World has good-natured old-school rhymes (the chanting repetition of “Get Down,” “Judgement Day” and the scratchy “Funk Wit da Style” all stop short of anything much heavier than MC competition), easygoing beats and the star’s husky, marble-mouthed voice, which resembles, in turn, Biz Markie, 2Pac and Erick Sermon. Mack is a natural entertainer; the party follows him even when he doesn’t have a lot to say. And when he does have something on his mind — notably the religious fervor of “When God Comes” — he’s a sharp, economical commentator. While representing a broad program of social responsibility (which includes a misplaced attack on women), Mack warns, “You can’t get strapped for when God comes.”