Shakir Stewart was appointed to the top post at Def Jam Recordings, but he wants to make it clear he’s not replacing Jay-Z.
“I was appointed as the Executive Vice President of Def Jam and what we put out was simply that,” Stewart told XXLmag.com. “I don’t look at it as replacement to Jay-Z. I think Jay-Z is, obviously, an iconic rapper, a good label president, and a good friend of mine. These are big shoes to fill for anyone to come in and say they’re replacing Jay-Z. I don’t lend any thought or attention to that.
“I need to come in there and build on the legacy that was there before me as well as the legacy I’m going to build in the future, and Jay-Z is a part of both of those,” he added.
Stewart cut his teeth as an A&R man in his 10-year music business career, signing Ciara, Young Jeezy, and Rick Ross notably, and if Jay-Z was a player’s coach to his artists as president, given his background as a rapper, Stewart said he’s a “music man,” in spite of his new duties to oversee day-to-day activities.
He plans to implement and oversee IDJ Television, a reality-based endeavor to showcase and break artists. And Stewart also plans to expand the new media ventures the label is involved in. But without hit records and superstars, he said, the ideas won’t amount to much.
Currently he’s in the studio wrapping up projects by LL Cool J and Young Jeezy. He also said Fabolous, Method Man, and Ghostface will be hitting the studio soon to work on new albums.
As the new top man at Def Jam, Stewart also defended Nas’ recent album title switch from the controversial name Nigger to now being untitled.
“The message of the album has not changed,” he said. “And I think that Nas has done an incredible job of speaking to the public through various forms, letting people know what the theme of this album is. Whether or not you see any letters on or off an album cover, does not dictate the substance in the music that your hear once you press play on that CD or iPod. And I think that Nas is taking his time and he’s crafted a masterpiece. I think that people will get two things out of it: they’ll be entertained and they’ll be educated. I think that’s necessary not only in today’s musical climate, but in the climate that we live in this word. There’s obviously some great dance music and some happy music, but there needs to be some music that touches the heart and souls of the people.
“I think there’s been so much talk about the title and this and that, it’s whatever with the title,” Stewart finished. “Let’s get into what his message is. And I think when people do that and really embrace that concept, I think that they’ll be pleased.”—Jayson Rodriguez