Stephen Garrett (1974-2008), better known as, “Static Major” was an iconic singer, songwriter and producer. The Louisville, KY native was 1/3 of the group “Playa”, along with childhood friends Benjamin “Black” Bush and Juwaan “Smoke” Peacock.
Static got his big break into the music industry back in the early 90s, when Jodeci performed a concert at the Louisville Gardens. Static, Smoke and Black had already formed their singing group and thought they could sneak backstage and impress the members of Jodeci by singing for them. They teens hoped it would result in a record deal – and boy were they ever right.
“We got backstage … Really and truly everybody was scared to talk to Dalvin – We seen Dalvin first… Me being the guy I am, I just walked up on him and said, ‘Can we sing for you?’ and he was like, ‘Let me go get me big brother’. He went and got Devante and actually what’s crazy is that we sung two Boyz II Men songs for Jodeci.” – Benjamin “Black” Bush
That chance meeting led to the group becoming a part of Jodeci’s in-house writing team and later to establishing a relationship with Ginuwine, Aaliyah and Timbaland. In 1996, Static would score his first major hit by writing Ginuwine’s monster hit Pony. This would be the first of many more hits to come.
In 1997, Playa would release their self-entitled debut album, Playa, on Def Jam Soul Records, which featured the hit single Cheers 2 U. Playa was part of the Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Aalyiah and Ginuwine camp which produced a signature hip-hop and R&B sound that controlled the airwaves during the mid-90’s and early 2000s.
Unfortunately Playa would dismantle after releasing only one album – but Static Major would go on to become one of the most prolific songwriters and music producers, that the industry has ever seen.
The Grammy Award winning artist penned the hits of some the world’s most famous entertainers such as; Lil Wayne, Aaliyah, Ginuwine, K-Ci & Jojo, Timbaland, Nicole Wray, Truth Hurts, Solange, Pretty Ricky, Brandy and others.
Static would also produce music for Diddy, Jay Z, David Banner, Rell, Jamie Foxx and TQ. As of late, his music has been incorporated and sampled into records by Drake, Twista, Pleasure P., A$AP Rocky, The Weeknd, Rihanna, Sammie, T.I. and Kehlani.
Throughout his career, Static would write over a dozen songs for Aaliyah, including: Try Again, More Than a Woman, Rock the Boat, We Need a Resolution and Are You That Somebody.
He would also write the Ginuwine songs, Pony, Same Ol’ G and So Anxious. Other hits would include Destiny’s Child – Say My Name, Jay Z – Change the Game, Timbaland & Magoo – Luv 2 Luv Ya and Pretty Ricky’s – Your Body – just to name a few.
However, his greatest accomplishment would ultimately come after his death. Static wrote a song that would become Lil Wayne’s biggest hit and push his career to super-stardom. The duo recorded Lollipop and released it to the world on March 13, 2008. Wayne rapped the lyrics, while Static sang the hook.
The song spent 5 non-consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart and proved to be 2008’s best-selling single, by selling 9.1 million copies by January 2009. Lollipop would win a Grammy in February 2009, for Best Rap Song.
“This was the first Static Major song where he was in the forefront. He had written that song, probably in December of 07′ and he kept saying, ‘I think Lil Wayne will be dope on this song, I just got to get it to him.’ So he kept running into him but he never really said anything about it. The song was Static’s song. It was his song. Basically his idea, his song, his melodies and Lil Wayne put his verses on there. That’s what happened. It was already a song.” – Avonti Garrett
Sadly, on February 25, 2008, just two weeks before Lollipop was released, Static passed away after having complications resulting from a rare autoimmune disorder called myasthenia gravis. A doctor at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville recommended a procedure called plasmapheresis, similar to dialysis, which requires an implanted catheter as a central line through the neck and into the chest area.
According to a Leo Weekly article written by Phillip Bailey in 2009, a catheter was placed in Static incorrectly and is thought to have punctured one of his lungs or caused excessive bleeding. Static complained of pain and when a nurse was instructed to remove the catheter, he went into respiratory distress and would not recover. His autopsy report reads:“Death in this case is attributed to complications associated with dialysis catheter placement.” The family of Static Major would later settle a lawsuit with Baptist Hospital East.
Static meant a lot to the music industry, a lot to the world – but even more to his hometown of Louisville, KY. No matter how successful he had become, he remained living in Louisville and remained the humble, down to the earth guy that the entire city fell in love with. Static didn’t consider himself a celebrity. It wasn’t rare to see him mingling through the streets of Louisville, like an average Joe.
His wife, Avonti Garrett, reminisces on the night the couple first met in a nightclub, after a Playa concert in Louisville, during an annual Kentucky Derby celebration.
“Static was so down to earth. This is his home, so he didn’t give a eff about nothing. He’s walking the crowd… He’s mingling, talking, drinking… So he’s walking around and I’m just standing there and my friend says, ‘There’s Static Right There!!’, and kind of pointed across the room… And I’m like, ‘Where?’… And I looked up and I seen him… As soon as I looked up – We both looked up at the same time and we made eye contact.” – Avonti Garrett
Louisvillian’s are proud people. The small town that sits on the banks of the Ohio River has a long history of producing icons, who have greatly influenced the world. Greats like Muhammad Ali, Bryson Tiller, Jennifer Lawrence, Phil Simms, Nicole Scherzinger, Diane Sawyer, Derek L. Anderson, Rajon Rondo, Scott Padgett, Allan Houston and Darrell Griffith all hail from the “Derby City”.
With such a vast history of greatness, Louisville residents are extremely proud, protective and sentimental when it comes to one of its hometown heroes. Especially Static Major. Knowing what he meant to Louisville, his wife Avonti wanted to celebrate her love for Static by allowing the entire city to experience that love with her, at a Tribute event in his honor.
The Static Major Tribute event took place at the Gramercy in Louisville on November 25, 2017, from 8:30pm to a little past midnight. The event was hosted by Benjamin “Black” Bush of “Playa”, Poet Robin G and D.Mawl. Proceeds from the event will go towards the cost of purchasing a Louisville Hometown Hero banner for Static Major.
“I first got into his [Static’s] music when I was down at Western Kentucky University. I was a part of Nappy Roots and Cortez Murray used to do talent shows with “Black” and Playa and all them, way back in the day, so he used to tell me about this group…
So when they first dropped their album, ‘Riding Down 65’ – coming from Cincinnati, that’s the same highway that I drove down, so I got used to them that way and when I really found out that all of them were from Louisville, I started paying attention to exactly what they were doing. Knowing they were from the crib, right here in Louisville and him writing all those hits, Pony, back then and all that, I knew he was a weapon that nobody even knew about in the industry.” – D. Mawl
The fully catered extravagant celebration included local music artists and artists from across the country, who performed many of the hits written and produced by Static Major. One of the highlights of the night is when Benjamin “Black” Bush got into a zone and spent 30 minutes emphatically singing “Playa’s” greatest hits, as if the spirit of Static Major took control of his body.
World renown DJ Kaos kept the crowd dancing all night and as an added bonus, the tribute featured a runway model show and a performance from Louisville’s own Envy Dance Team. Poet Robin G, brought tears to Avonti’s eyes as she surprised her with a personalized poem, that captured the strength, love and loyalty of a wife who’s done everything to honor her husband, even post-death.
Static Major spent majority of his career in the background, penning timeless hits for major artists. He kept a low profile, so low in fact, that many people outside of the music industry aren’t aware of his accomplishments. Unfortunately he met an untimely death just when it seemed as though he was poised to make his big break into the mainstream.
Avonti Garrett says that she’s dedicated to making sure that the legacy of the late-great Stephen “Static Major” Garrett isn’t forgotten and lives in the hearts of his fans forever. She plans to extend this celebration to an annual Tribute event in his honor.