11:19 AM PT -- Diddy just released a statement on Mack's passing, saying, "Craig Mack, 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." #badboy4life #ripcraigmack
Craig Mack, the '90s rap star who helped put Diddy's Bad Boy Records on the map, died at his home in South Carolina of natural causes ... TMZ has learned.
The "Flava in Ya Ear" rapper was living in Walterboro, SC, where he'd joined a church and committed himself to his religion. His former producer, Alvin Toney, told the Daily News he'd seen him for the last time last week while filming a documentary on Craig's new life.
Mack, along with Notorious B.I.G., was the first rap superstar for Diddy's young label in the '90s. He was born on Long Island, but got his break by freestyling over a Mary J. Blige track for Diddy.
He was one of few Bad Boy Records artists who did not join the huge reunion tour a couple years ago. Craig was already committed to his new life in the South Carolina church by then.
Mack's huge 1994 hit, 'Flava,' earned him a Best Rap Solo Grammy nomination, although he lost to Queen Latifah. No shame in that game.
Craig was 47.
RIP to kicking mad flava in ya ear ... Mack was a brand new flava in ya ear.