When songwriter Stephen “Static Major” Garrett’s lyrics converged with Aaliyah’s voice it created a vortex. Not a “matter turns to nothingness,” vacuum-type of vortex, but a supernovaical vortex that housed and churned all the human emotions generated by their chemistry. Love. Sensuality. Yearning. Devotion. And mystery, above all. Static was a verbal alchemist, taking what could have been the tritest sentiments and handling them with the deftest touch, rendering them ephemeral with melody.
In his collaborations with producers Missy Elliott and Timbaland, Static’s phrasing and pauses were fundamentally part of the beats—natural extensions of rhythm that mirrored how rappers mind their syntax. And in Playa, the mega-underrated R&B trio he headed, his own voice lilted as sweetly as those of the stars to whom he gifted words. Static passed away in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky this past February from complications during surgery. He was finishing up his debut solo album, Suppertime. He was 33 years old.
Lil Wayne f. Static Major “Lollipop” (Universal 2008)
Static sang the hook on this weirdo Wayne single, serving as a good pop introduction to Suppertime, which also features Wayne. In the video they’re both dressed up in nice suits and taking on Vegas in a limousine, where they make out with girls and drink champagne. Palm trees and bonfires explode behind them. He looks so handsome.
Truth Hurts ft Rakim “Addictive” 12-inch (Aftermath 2002)
Aftermath got sued cause producer DJ Quik unclearedly sampled Bollywood diva Lati Mangeshkar for this Staticpenned hit. It was worth a couple of Dr Dre’s millions to get the mesmerizing interplay between Lati’s ozone wail and Truth Hurts’ thuddy, twosyllable, 12-steps testimony. It’s like ahhhhhhh vs He breaks/ Me down/ He builds/ Me up/ He fills/My cup/ I like/ It rough. Static was a master of getting sexually explicit without ever coming off crass.
Nicole Wray “Eyes Better Not Wander” 12-inch (Elektra 1998)
Dudes, young veteran Nicole Wray is the fiercest R&B singer out there, yet labels continue to play whoopee cushion with her album (dropping in Nevuary according to Wikipedia since 2004!). Her most prominent placements in the last four years have been: 1. Dipset mixtapes and 2. Dipset mixtapes. Fini. Back on her only released album (from ten years ago!), she A-TTACKS this ballad about dumping a dude cause he’s got wandering eye and Static lets her run with her godgiven attitude.
Destiny’s Child “Say My Name (Timbaland Remix)” This is the Remix (Columbia 1999)
The original was accusatory, finger-wagging, ’bout to get murderous on a fool. In Static’s rewrite, however, Beyonce & co get real relaxed, slow it down, and put it on the dude like they’re delivering a lecture from a leather executive chair. Timbo offers minimal handclaps and a shifty-boyfriend rap interlude, and somehow, our ladies end up sounding even more in control than they do on the original.
Static Major f. Pretty Ricky “Til the Wheels Fall Off” (myspace.com/staticmajor)
As a fierce patron of contempo R&B, I’ve been super bummed by lots of the trad songwriting that gets play, aka any post- “Stay” Ne-Yo. But this early single from Static’s stillforthcoming album Suppertime is of the Lloyd genus: cognizant enough of rap’s influence on R&B to bang like it must, yet filled with sensual melodies that are both classic and not so transparently pop that Celine Dion could fuck around and jump on the remix real quick.
Playa “Cheers 2 U” Cheers 2 U (Def Jam1998)
The title track off of Playa’s sole album, “Cheers 2 U” features triple-time beats from Timbo’s early days, an alien sax solo and Static wearing his smoothest, most sensual falsetto. The whole shebanger is punctuated by a sexily echo’d “oh” that sounds like the mating call of a wood sprite preparing to sex u up in his cave-Jacuzzi. Static loved whatever came from heaven: Cheers to you for giving me a chance/ I’ll be your angel, guardian man.
Pretty Ricky “On the Hotline” Late Night Special (Atlantic 2006)
I went on tour with Pretty Ricky in the fall of 2006, when this song was blowing up. They are really dirty and dry-humped in pyramid formation at every concert while wearing Eyes Wide Shut falcon masks, but it was never disturbing because this phone sex song retains the classic Static mystique. They sing So Horny, so hornaaayyy repeatedly in the chorus, and yet it sounds almost poignant.
Aaliyah “Loose Rap” Aaliyah (Virgin 2001)
From Aaliyah’s final album, “Loose Rap” could have been a frenetic, attitudinal single about boys who come to Agame chicks offering B-game skills. But the melody was so understated that it embodied how cool both Aaliyah and Static were, particularly together.