On Monday, February 25, 2008, Stephen “Static” Garrett, died in Louisville, KY at age 33. Cause of death is unknown.
I’m more upset by this than I think is particularly healthy. If you are a member of my generation (mid 20s to mid 30s) you have been deeply influenced by the music of Static — whether you know it or not. As the main songwriter to work with Timbaland before he stopped working with R&B artists and switched over to pop artists, Static is arguably the most influential black songwriter of the past 15 years.
I’ve said numerous times that Playa, Static’s group with Digital Black and Smoke E. Digglera, was the most underrated male vocal group of the late 90s and probably neck-and-neck with Jodeci for the greatest post-soul male vocal group we’ve had. Cheers 2 U, their one and only album, was church set to Timbaland’s futuristic production and Smokey’s more orchestral production. When it dropped in 1998, folks just weren’t ready. Nowadays, people sang all up and through a Timbaland track, but back then people just didn’t quite get Playa. Nonetheless, it’s arguably the best male vocal album of the 90s.
Since then, Static has been keeping busy writing for lots of artists, most notably Aaliyah and Tank.
Static was the last of the three guys in Playa to release a solo album (which was slated to drop sometime this year). In an email to me on Myspace, he was said that he won’t release it till it is perfect. I certainly hope that it comes out in some form still.
Check out a video of the Playa guys payin tribute at a Louisville radio show. Moving!:
Static has never written or performed anything that I didn’t love, but here are my top 5 Static involved joints.
5. We Need a Resolution, Aaliyah (written by Static)
This song is really about the melody. Everyone talks about how Timbaland’s production is so hot — and it is. But the reason that he blew up as big as he did is because Missy and Static, especially, have a firm understanding and mastery of melody. Listen to how Aaliyah rides the groove, but sings with such purpose. I’ve said it a million fuckin times but no one should really sing over a Timbaland beat but Missy, Playa, Ginuwine and Aaliyah. As a collective, they have defined R&B for the past 15 years but they don’t work together anymore. Sad.
4. So Anxious, Ginuwine (written by Static)
Other than G himself, no one could write a melody for Ginuwine the way Static could. Static’s genius was understanding everything about the singer. This is definitely the case with Aaliyah, but his influence and importance in Ginuwine’s career is often overlooked.
Let’s not forget the dope-ass remix as well
3. Playa, Never Too Late
I’m not sure, but I think this was to be the first single from the follow-up album to Cheers 2 U. The fact that this album has never materialized is criminal. Blackground has not really figured out what to do with its roster of artists (Tank and Playa, especially). The loss of Aaliyah, and now Static, will make that harder, I think. Nevertheless, this song reinforced what these 3 men do that no other male vocal group do — they bring the church right to ya ears and make you wanna dance. Most people refine that church sound, Playa was all about making every song sound like praise, or devotion, or a spiritual transaction. This is what set them apart and (probably) what made them hard to categorize.
2. Tank, So Many Times (written by Static)
This standout track from Tank’s criminally underappreciated sophomore album, One Man, is perhaps Static’s greatest song. And Tank sangs the hell out of it. If you buy nothing else that Static writes, this is the one you should buy.
1. Playa, 1-65 (written and produced by Playa)
Cheers 2 U was a largely ignored album, but every single person who has heard it or owns it cites I-65 as the crown jewel of the album. It’s basically a song about goin home and lovin where you from. All three guys share lead and all three wrote the song, but Static’s bridge sells it. What’s great about Playa is that they all share lead, but they understand instinctively what voice is right for what part, and the songs are written to each guy’s voice. So when Static’s bridge comes the tempo changes and the harmonies dial up. It’s so moving that I’m sure I’m not even capturing it in this description. On some level, one has to listen to the song and pay attention to the vocal arrangement to see really how the bridge works. Either way, these three brothas never make a bad song, but this remains their single greatest piece of work.
Much respect. Love you, homie!