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Stew (born Mark Stewart) grew up in the Los Angeles area where he played in bands from Junior High School onwards. Despite having grown up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, Stew was well versed in hard rock and progressive rock as well, then on to punk when that scene hit Los Angeles. After making his first recording in a band called the Animated, Stew decided to relocate to New York City, where he performed with both a "found-object all-percussion performance combo" and a more standard R&B/pop band. After a few years in New York, it was off to Europe, where Stew and some friends eventually settled in Berlin and became a part of the avant-garde artistic squatter community, doing music and performance pieces for several more years. Finding his way back to Los Angeles, Stew played in a series of bands (imPOPisation, Crazy Sound All Stars, Popular Front) before forming the Negro Problem in 1995. After several singles, the Negro Problem released their first full-length album, Post-Minstrel Syndrome in 1997. Joys & Concerns followed in 1999, further refining Stew's vision within their smart power pop context. In 2000, Stew released Guest Host, featuring songs that have a more sophisticated, Burt Bacharach-pop style and production, while continuing with the more rock-oriented Negro Problem. Sean Westergaard

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