R&B Hitmaker Tricky Stewart Talks About Writing Hits For Mya And Other Artists, And How He Got Started

Tricky Stewart with Mya in the studio.
Tricky Stewart with Mya in the studio.

During the past few years, C. Tricky Stewart (aka “Trixstar”) has emerged as one of the top, writer/producers in the R&B/hip-hop field, He discovered and signed Blu Cantrell to his production company, Red Zone Entertainment, and wrote and produced several songs for her platinum, Arista debut album. In addition, Stewart has written and produced hits for J.T. Money, Sole, and has worked with Ginuwine, Sisqo, Tyrese, Chante Moore and B2K. But his biggest hit to date has probably been “Case Of the Ex,” which became a breakthrough hit for Interscope artist, Mya.

“Case Of The Ex” (which was co-written by Traci Hale and Tab) has been a dominant radio hit, featuring its unmistakable, keyboard hook and its unique, lyric theme (about a strong woman who won’t tolerate her man returning to his ex-girlfriend). This single reached number two on the Billboard “Hot 100” in December 2000, and stayed in the Top 10 for a full, three months.

Stewart grew up in Chicago, but he got his start in the music business when he moved to Los Angeles. “I was discovered by [the late] Louil Silas (who was head of Silas/MCA Records),” recalled Stewart. “He and my brother (Laney Stewart, a successful writer/producer) gave me my first start at making records. One of my first projects was writing and producing cuts for Chante Moore, who was signed to Louil’s label.”

Subsequently, Stewart moved to Atlanta, where he built his Triangle Sound Studio, and launched Red Zone Entertainment. He has successfully produced projects in the pop, R&B and rap genres. Stewart’s hit with J.T. Money, “Who Dat,” was not only a #1 rap single and “ASCAP’s Rap Song Of The Year,” it also reached #5 on the Billboard pop chart.

It was in Fall 2000 that that Stewart co-wrote “Case Of The Ex” with Traci Hale and Tab. “Traci and Tab are two of my writing partners, and we got together to write a song specifically for Mya,” said Stewart. “We kicked around some subjects which Mya could potentially sing. We wanted to create a lyric theme that would keep her young, yet would show that she was growing up. Then Traci came up with the lyric idea, which was inspired by [a relationship] she was going through at the time. Traci and Tab wrote most of the lyrics, and I wrote most of the music and played all of the tracks, with Traci singing on the original demo.”

This initial demo also featured the compelling, percussive, keyboard hook which became the song’s musical trademark. “I followed an old philosophy, which is to try to catch the listener’s attention,” explained Stewart. “I wanted to make a statement with that hook, creating a special sound that people would react to and remember. It was like a loud, horn blast, which was derived from a sampled sound, and then enhanced with my K-25 keyboard.”

Soon after completing the demo, Stewart played the song for Mya, and she immediately loved it. The following day, Mya recorded her vocals at Stewart’s studio for the master version. “Mya did a great job with her vocals; she truly brought the song to life,” said Stewart.

“Case Of The Ex” was quickly released as the first single from Mya’s album, Fear Of Flying. This single subsequently spent a full, thirty weeks on the “Hot 100”, and also reached the Top 10 on the Billboard “R&B/Hip-Hop” chart. Fear Of Flying is currently approaching double platinum status in album sales.

The success of “Case Of The Ex” has led to Stewart and Mya teaming up to record many songs for her follow-up album. “We’ve been working together on [Mya’s] new album, and we’ve already recorded seven songs,” said Stewart.

2002 should be another successful year for Stewart and his Red Zone Entertainment. In addition to working with Mya and Blu Cantrell, Stewart has signed a new female quartet, Crave, to Red Zone, and the group’s debut album will be released soon on J Records. Also, his song, “Uh-Huh,” is a current hit for male group, B2K. In 2003, Red Zone is introducing their latest artist release, pop artist Dalene Daniel. With Stewart and his writing/production team being equally adept at creating hits in the pop, R&B and hip-hop/rap genres, there are plenty of avenues for Stewart and Red Zone to add to their hit credentials.

Dale Kawashima is the Head of SongwriterUniverse and a music journalist. He’s also a music publishing exec who has represented the song catalogs of Michael Jackson, Prince, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Motown Records.
Dale Kawashima