Def Jam’s VP Shakir Stewart Tragedy

RIP Shakir Steward
RIP Shakir Steward

A music executive who signed Beyoncé and ran hip-hop heavyweight Def Jam Recordings committed suicide by shooting himself in the head.

Shakir Stewart, 34, was found lifeless in the bathroom of his suburban Atlanta home a  late Saturday, killed by a single gunshot wound, police said. Stewart took over Def Jam in June, following in the large footsteps of Jay-Z, the Brooklyn-born rap legend.

It was not immediately clear why Stewart killed himself, and police did not comment on whether the exec left a suicide note in his Marietta, Ga., home. “Whatever happened over the past 24 hours is not a testament to who we all know,” said longtime friend Christopher Hicks, a fellow music executive. “He was a one-of-a-kind individual,” Hicks said.

Stewart was born in Oakland, Calif., moved to Atlanta to attend Morehouse College and helped establish the Southern city's contemporary hip-hop and R&B scene. When he worked for the Hitco publishing company, he signed the then-unknown Beyoncé Knowles and later discovered the sultry songstress Ciara. For Def Jam, he later inked rap stars, Rick Ross and Young Jeezy. His record label put out a statement that described Shakir as “an amazing man, in every sense of the word.”

The late, young music executive was credited with making Atlanta one of the most respected music scenes in the world. In June 2008, he was named Executive Vice President of Def Jam Recordings, replacing Jay-Z.

Shakir Stewards House
Shakir Stewards House

On Sunday, November 2, 2008, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at this home. In early July, he seemed to be celebrating his new lofty position at Def Jam when he purchased a 7-bed, 7-bath home in the Avignon subdivision of Atlanta for $1.65M.

Still, speculation amongst industry insiders is beginning to make its rounds, with some suggesting that the demise of the A&R star might be related to his involvement with the infamous Black Mafia Family.

Stewart's suicide was shocking in light of his recent promotion to Executive Vice President of A&R just this past summer – a position he called his “dream job.” He filled a vacuum left at Def Jam after the exit of rap star and former president of the label, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.

RIP "Shake"
RIP “Shake”

Official statements from the Stewart family expressed their sadness and implied that something had changed about their loved one in the days before his death.

“It is difficult to express or explain in words what led to the tragic occurrence on Saturday. Over the past several weeks, Shakir's behavior was inconsistent with the man we all know and love,” a statement read.

According to a music industry source, Stewart was completely engrossed by his work and never seemed happy. Though his salary and respect in the music business was generous, sources say that Stewart was always attracted to the fast life, and he was even known to borrow large amounts of money.

“He enjoyed the hustle, the wheeling, and dealing. He was always on the move, never sitting still…and always in touch with gangsta types,” said a source. No organized crime ties have been confirmed.

The Black Mafia Family (BMF) quickly gained notoriety and respect among the hip-hop community.RIP Shake
The group began to draw unwanted attention from federal agents in 2003 once they established a high-profile operation in Atlanta, where they erected billboards, held lavish parties, created DVDs, and boasted of their connections with rappers Young Jeezy and Fabolous.
In 2005, agents raided several key BMF operations in Georgia, Michigan, Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and California.
Brothers Demetrius “Big Meech” and Terry “Southwest T” Flenory were apprehended in 2005 and indicted under the CCE (Continuing Criminal Enterprise) law, which carries life sentences. The brothers pleaded guilty in November 2007 to the CCE charges and laundering drug money in hopes of serving the minimum 20-year sentence. However, the evidence presented by prosecutors resulted in 30-year sentences for both men.

Nine members of the famed criminal organization the Black Mafia Family (BMF) were sentenced to prison time in Atlanta (October 29, 2008) for their role in the massive cocaine and crack distribution throughout the nation’s biggest cities.

Demetrius and Terry were sentenced on September 12, 2008, to 30 years in prison, for running the cocaine organization known as The Black Mafia Family. BMF was founded by the brothers in Detroit during the late 1980s.

After quickly securing valuable contacts with international coke suppliers, the organization grew to a nationwide criminal conspiracy within a few years. At their peak, Demetrius and Terry Flenory are estimated to have controlled a cocaine empire worth $270 million.


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