Garnet always described himself as hip hop. It was the greatest compliment anyone could give him. He was raised in hip hop, lived hip hop, and suffered in hip hop these past few years. He was one of the greatest communicators I’ve met, with an ability to explain how he felt in mere words. He often confided to me his innermost thoughts, feelings, and struggles. This was only in the past 5 years or so though. Prior to becoming my good friend, he was my respected peer who was great at his job and extremely likable. Just a cool person.
I met Garnet early in my career when he was working at PayDay Records, I believe. Or maybe it was Tommy Boy. The truth is, I don’t remember when or where I met Garnet, he was just always there. We spoke on panels and hung out at industry events together. He always dressed so fly that he stood out the way rappers do, and was always a great mixshow radio promoter. He was extremely good at his job and a kind human being–two things that are rare enough in the music business to make him stand out.
One of the reasons I brought Cash Money to Mel Lewinter at Universal in the summer of 1997 was because of their marketing department (Jean Riggins) and their radio department (Garnet Reid worked the all-important mixshow promotions). I often shared this insight with Garnet after he moved here to Atlanta. It never went to his head and he always touted the team efforts of everyone at Universal in Cash Money’s delirious success, but I knew better. There was a small number of people who made the difference in the success of the Cash Money artists and he was one of the select few–the ones who really mattered are not the ones who took credit publicly.
I lost touch with Garnet when he was working with JMJ Records at the time of Jam Master Jay’s murder. Garnet credited that event with what he felt was the downturn of his career in hip hop. I didn’t see his life from the same point of view. To me, he was always successful just not as wealthy as he should have been based on the successes he built. Who better to understand this than me!
Around 2011 or so, life grew challenging for Garnet. It was somewhere around then, late at night, when my phone rang. I answered, surprised, because he wasn’t one to call me so late. We weren’t that close, yet. He was sitting in his backyard, depressed from a betrayal and the break up of a relationship. He confided in me that he no longer wanted to live. I was not prepared for that call but refused to hang up. I somehow comforted him that night and begged him to get help. He felt no one could help him be relevant again in an industry changing faster than he could accept. He tried starting a blog, but his interest lay in 1980s and 90s hip hop from New York. He was unable to eek out a living with so narrow a niche decades later, and truthfully he didn’t know how to monetize it.
His Mother passed away and he still felt a huge void from the loss of his brother many years prior. As his ability to earn income in the music industry spiraled downhill, be became frustrated. He often spoke about the industry folks he helped when they were struggling, but he felt he couldn’t get the same help in return. He wasn’t looking for a hand out, just for a project or two to stave off foreclosure. He couldn’t find a way to make ends meet. After losing everything, he moved to Florida and took a stab at the fashion industry, and from there went to Los Angeles for a year or two. Garnet never seemed to find a fit for himself–the true hip hop fan from Queens. He still saw himself as Garnet the mixshow promoter and he loved his DJ friends. It’s all he wanted to do. He kept in touch with everyone who mattered to him, regularly. Truly an amazing skill that I coveted.
He arrived back in Atlanta with a renewed energy after Los Angeles. He went out on a promo tour by himself that he named the Catfish Tour. It reconnected him with DJs in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. He began promoting independent songs to DJs again. Getting back to his roots allowed a limited happiness into his life. The industry was steadily changing and he knew it. Although there was an increased focus on independents, there was reduced work for mixshow guys. With the growing importance of streaming, he briefly toyed with the idea of promoting songs to playlist curators, but the idea of leaving his DJs behind wasn’t exciting to him.
Garnet also grew frustrated by the amount of scams occurring from some of his promotion peers. By them taking people’s money and not delivering, it was pushing potential clients to 2 or 3 indie radio promoters and making it hard for Garnet to find work even though he was not shady. Those few legitimate working radio promoters had their go-to guys in place for mixshow and he felt there was no room for him. Garnet felt this was problematic and he voiced it consistently. More and more people in the industry stopped taking his calls. Regardless, very little work came his way which was surprising based on his connections and work ethic.
Around the holidays, Garnet began dating. Years had passed since his last relationship which didn’t end well for him. I was excited to see him living life again even if it offered some frustrating moments for him. We spoke for 2 hours at the beginning of March and he seemed happy. It was the first conversation we’d had in a long time where he didn’t express his frustration about the music industry. We talked about his new relationship and a new project he would be managing. It was awesome to hear a glimmer of excitement in Garnet’s voice.
Yesterday, Garnet passed away at 48 years young after searching for over a decade for a new place in hop hop to fit in. I believe he gave up. He would have been humbled by the out pouring of love at his passing on social media. He also would have found it corny because of the amount of people expressing grief at his loss when they stopped taking his calls years ago.
On the personal tip, I loved Garnet and I lost a friend who loved me dearly. Not an industry friend, but a real true friend. There wasn’t a superficial bone in Garnet’s body. I’m comforted by the loving posts from those who knew and loved him. I can’t replace Garnet. It’s extremely hard to find people who love me for me. Plus, there are so few of us “industry vets” left. I can count on 2 hands the number of people who started when I did in this industry and who are still left making a living in this business. I have felt some of the frustrations that Garnet suffered–the abandonment and disloyalty. The difference is that I expected it and he did not. I accepted it and he could not.
The loss of Garnet Reid is painful for so many of us for many reasons. Human beings are so frail. How we cope with loss and frustration is so key. Garnet was an amazing human being who was in pain, and he is at peace now. And somehow, the rest of us will continue on. Rest In Peace, my friend. Finally, you are at peace and I understand. You were an awesome friend. Thank you for that. I’m grateful for every minute we had.