Tucked behind trees and greenery outside the South Carolina city of Walterboro is a controversial religious compound where New York rapper Craig Mack spent most of his later years, devoting his life to the teachings of a self-proclaimed prophet now accused of sexual misconduct.
Mack, who found fame with Sean (Diddy) Combs’ Bad Boy Records in the mid-1990s, traded in his hip-hop lifestyle for one of spirituality with Overcomer Ministry — a religious group whose members live together on a self-sustaining farm while they await the second coming of Jesus.
While the New York rapper did not live on the compound, he’s been associated with the ministry for most of the last decade. He instead lived in a home nearby and was a regular fixture at sermons and gatherings, often broadcast online through the ministry website and its YouTube page.
A bizarre video shared in 2012 sees the “Flava in Ya Ear” rapper denouncing his past life, opting instead for one of “righteousness.”
“Craig Mack is dead. We have somebody who used to be Craig Mack. He didn’t join anything. God joined him,” Brother Ralph Gordon Stair says in the video, summoning Mack to stand by his side.
In another clip posted in 2016, Mack can be seen taking the stage to freestyle about his faith and Stair’s teachings.
The rapper, perhaps one of the most well-known members of the religious group, died Monday of heart failure at a hospital not far from the controversial commune. He was 46.
Branded as a cult by some of its defectors in recent interviews, the Overcomer Ministry compound sits on 130 acres of land about two miles off Interstate 95. It’s estimated 70 residents, who are required to give their “worldly goods and monies to the Lord” mostly live in modest residences built on the swath of land.
“We live in community homes of mobile trailers for each family or accommodations for brothers or sisters with common baths and common eating, all seeking to live together in love for God and each other,” a brochurefor the ministry reads. “We go nowhere, no shopping or trips to see what have you. Your life will be here on the farm until Jesus comes.”
Those living at the secluded Christian commune typically cut off contact from the outside. Law enforcement have fielded a series of calls over the years from the loved ones of those living on the commune, many of them expressing concern over the cult-like rules of the organization.
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“They call us a cult. What in the world is a cult? Huh? All we do is live on a community,” Stair said during an October sermon posted to YouTube. “We’re striving to live in Unity.”
Stair, born in Bethlehem Pa., said he started preaching at the age of 16 and traveled from church to church before founding Overcomer Ministry in the unincorporated community of Canadys in the early 1980s, according to the Post and Courier.
At the ministry’s peak, Stair’s sermons were being broadcast across 120 stations and attracting support from people across 192 different countries. Listeners at any hour of the day had the opportunity to phone in and listen to Stair preach through the radio operation he ran out of the compound.
But as of Jan. 1 broadcasts were removed from AM/FM radio and Shortwave “due to legal difficulties.”
The 84-year-old preacher in December was arrested on charges of assault with intent to commit first-degree criminal sexual conduct, third-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor, kidnapping, first-degree burglary, second-degree burglary and three counts of criminal sexual conduct.
In his first court appearance last month, a judge granted Stair a $750,000 bail.
Stair has been the subject of a state investigation since October — the same month a video surfaced that allegedly shows the pastor cupping the breast of a 12-year-old girl.
“I’m gonna touch those things till nobody else can,” he says in video obtained by Live 5 News.
Four women during interviews with the Post and Courier described incidents with the pastor, ranging from groping to rape. The behavior typically started out with aggressive hugging and then escalated into sexual acts Stair allegedly dubbed “God’s will,” according to the women, who no longer live on the compound.
The allegations are similar to those raised against Stair more than a decade ago. Stair, who called himself the “Last Day Prophet of God,” was arrested in 2002 on two counts of second-degree criminal sexual assault.
A pair of women accused of him of raping them multiple times on the compound, which he repeatedly denied. He eventually pleaded guilty to two lesser counts of misdemeanor assault and battery and was sentenced to time served.