Tricky Stewart Bags New Def Jam Imprint

After producing summer anthems like Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It),” producer/songwriter Tricky Stewart has signed a deal with Def Jam Records to begin releasing music directly through his own label, RedZone Entertainment.

“It was my dream to juggle so much,” Stewart told Vibe on Wednesday (September 9). “I really wanted a career with no limitations, and I wanted to creatively get off. Most people want to pigeonhole and put you in a box, and I kept fighting and [Def Jam] let me do it all.”

RedZone was founded by Tricky and his brother Mark E. Stewart in 1995. The production company has been responsible for more than 20 million records sold by artists ranging from Mary J. Blige to Sting. Stewart, whose songwriting partner is R&B star The-Dream, was previously responsible for producing records and then shopping them to major labels. The new deal frees him up to see projects all the way through.

“It was a quick negotiation,” he adds. “It wasn’t really anything to negotiate- they were going to give me what I wanted. It took about two weeks.”

RedZone’s current focus is the 20-year-old singer Bryan J., whose heavy-bass, slow-droll dance song “Like I’m Obama” made rounds around the Internet in August.

“I’m going to spend this time getting his face out there, I’m going to give him a little bit of my experience breaking an artist in this industry,” Stewart says of Bryan. “His stuff is all about being young and youthful. So we’re trying to get in that whole ‘heartthrob’ lane where he can drive the girls crazy. Right now, we’re just working the Internet.”

In lieu of executive-ship, Stewart, who most recently produced the title track off Whitney Houston’s comeback album I Look to You, says he plans to continue working with platinum-selling mega-acts while running his label.

“I’m not going in trying to build no record company, I’m going to continue to make hit records,” he says. “You’re not going to see me not working with big artists now that I’m running a company.”

His planned business approach will be tough love.

“I’m not going to put out albums on people that don’t deserve it,” he says while walking into Def Jam’s offices. “I’ll put out singles, I’m going to have big singles. I’m going to put them shits out. But no albums until they prove they’re ready for an album. My label is going to be indicative of the times today, and I’m not going to follow old school traditions. I’m going to get heavily involved in the singles market, and digital downloads. My goal is to bring bigger hits to Def Jam.” -Linda Hobbs