Def Jam Executive Vice President Shakir Stewart Dead at 34

Photo: Island/Def Jam

Marietta, GA -- The urban music industry mourns the loss of one of its strongest behind-the scenes workers; Shakir Stewart, former Executive Vice President of Def Jam Recordings, was found dead at his house in Marietta, Georgia (an Atlanta suburb) Saturday afternoon, due to an allegedly self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was only 34 years old.

A native of Oakland, Stewart came to Atlanta to study at Morehouse College. While still at Morehouse, Stewart, along with Christopher Hicks, Ryan Glover, and others, founded local promotion company Ivory Coast Entertainment, which hosted parties and concerts all around the city. Soon afterwards, the three started Noontime Music, which would launch the careers of songwriter Johnta Austin as well as producers Jazze Pha and Bryan-Michael Cox.

Eventually, Stewart teamed up with fellow executive L.A. Reid to be an A&R for two of Reid's business ventures; signing Beyoncé to a publishing deal for Hitco, as well as Ciara to the Zomba/Sony BMG-distributed LaFace Records. For Stewart, however, the best was yet to come.

In 2004, at the same time that Reid was named Chairman of the Island Def Jam Music Group, Stewart was named Vice President of A&R for Def Jam Recordings. Under his tenure, he signed another future Atlanta music superstar, platinum-selling rapper Young Jeezy, along with Miami heavyweight Rick Ross. In recognition of his hard work into forming Def Jam's new corps, he was promoted to Vice President of IDMG and President of Def Jam, taking on the responsibilities previously held by Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter.

"My main thing is to keep supporting the artists that have cultural relevance, a message, a real fan base and that can touch the hearts of men and women," Stewart told another website concerning his mission as an record executive. "My commitment is to the artists of quality music and talent."

In his most recent duties, Stewart oversaw the release of Nas' untitled ninth studio album, as well as Young Jeezy's The Recession and LL Cool J's Exit 13. The week of the untitled album's release, Nas said this of Stewart: "He gave me some confidence dealing with all of this. He's about growth. …And you can never catch him off his game. In the club, the office, wherever. He's always seeing the big picture. Great supporter!" Before the release of The Recession, Jeezy summed it up more directly: "Having Shakir on your team is a good thing."

The Island Def Jam Music Group made the following statement shortly after Stewart's passing: "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."

Stewart leaves behind a five-year-old daughter.

Photo Credit : Island/Def Jam

Written by on 11/3/08

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