I first met Shakir Stewart in 2001 when he was Vice President at Hitco Music. L.A. Reid, who by then had succeeded Clive Davis at Arista, had put his faith in Shakir to oversee the creative direction and day-to-day operations of his publishing venture.
At the time, I had clients signed to a competing music publisher and was traveling to Atlanta frequently for meetings and studio sessions. I was peddling creative talent and Shakir was -- as always -- looking for the next best thing be it a song, a songwriter, a producer, an artist or a colleague with an ear for talent.
In music publishing, competition breeds collaboration. It was obvious to me at the onset of my first visit to the Hitco office that Shakir was someone you wanted to collaborate with. Someone you had to collaborate with. He was passionate ... driven, his energy contagious. I am proud to be counted among those he made music with--even if ours was never heard outside studio walls.
His goal: to make hit records. Mission: Accomplished.
With such hits under his belt as Destiny's Child's "Survivor," Shakir began moving up L.A.'s A&R ranks, first at La Face and Arista, where he signed Grammy Award-winning artist Ciara, and later at the premier urban record label, Def Jam, where he recently took the helm from Jay-Z.
I haven't seen Shake in a couple of years, the last time being only a brief dinner encounter when he was in Los Angeles. One of the most memorable times I had with him, albeit not that fun, was also in LA at the screening of one of the worst movies ever, The Wash. If you saw it in the theater, you might have walked out. We were stuck in a studio screening (no concessions) that had started about an hour and a half late when Dr. Dre decided to show up. And we saw the temp music, unedited version which went on and on and on. It was a long, creatively stifling but quite unforgettable afternoon.
Shakir was a true champion of talent and an inspiration to many. The news that he has taken his own life is nothing short of a stunning tragedy. We all had him pegged as a "Survivor."
Thanks for the memories and music, man. R.I.P.
Tip: Stop the Last.fm player on the left before playing
Def Jam: "L.A. Reid and all of us at Island Def Jam Music Group are deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Shakir Stewart. Shakir was an amazing man, in every sense of the word. A truly incredible friend and father who was an inspiration to not only our artists and employees, but to his family and the many people who had the privilege of counting him as a friend. Our hearts and prayers go out to his family at this very difficult time."
Fiancee Michelle Rivers: "Over the past several weeks, Shakir's behavior was inconsistent with the man we all know and love. As much as we all tried to help him, Shakir was in deep pain and largely suffering in silence."
Friend Christopher Hicks: "Whatever happened over the past 24 hours is not a testament to who we all know. He was a one-of-a-kind individual. If you looked on his Blackberry [stamp] it said, 'One of one.' ... I mean, Shakir is the kind of guy who would get dressed up for a party none of us were invited to. ... He had no doubt he was getting in. He was a 'Where there's a will, there's a way' kind of guy. Always."
Police: Stewart died of self-inflicted gunshot wound (AJC, Nov. 2, 2008)