RIP Chris Lighty: A conversation about the loss & legacy of a true hip-hop pioneer


A day after Chris Lighty took his own life in his New York apartment, the hip-hop community continues to mourn the loss of a brilliant music executive and a true leader for the culture.

The 44-year-old Bronx native was known for managing the careers of, at one point or another, some of the most important figures in hip-hop (50 Cent, Diddy, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Missy Elliot — even Mariah Carey). As founder and CEO of Violator Management, he was responsible for some of the most groundbreaking deals in music, such as 50 Cent’s now-famous deal with Glaceau (which owns Vitamin Water), valued at over $100 million. He was also the man behind LL Cool J’s Gap commercial in the 90s, the one in which he’s seen wearing FUBU gear — a milestone, for sure.

As Jon Caramanica put it in the New York Times, Lighty was “an executive who distinguished himself by knocking down the often stiff wall that separated hip-hop culture from the mainstream, back when those worlds were far apart and still regarding each other warily.”

At the time of his death, he was still managing, among others, 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes, as well as 17-year-old Diggy Simmons (the son of Run-D.M.C’s Run).

Lighty’s love for hip-hop goes all the way back to his days carrying records for the pioneering New York DJ Red Alert. Soon he’d be road managing the likes of Boogie Down Productions (DJ Scott La Rock, D-Nice, and KRS-One) and the Jungle Brothers. He even rapped on Black Sheep’s first album (back when he went by “Baby Chris”). The legendary Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen would eventually take notice of Lighty, and scoop him up to work for Rush Management and Def Jam, the most important label in hip-hop history.

Read the rest of this story here and listen in on my conversation with Jayson Rodriguez, Executive Editor of XXL and a friend/fellow VIBE alum, whom I called to discuss the loss and legacy of Chris Lighty.

The reggae scholars have spoken: Snoop Lion is not a gimmick


By now you’ve heard the news: Snoop Dogg has officially changed his name to Snoop Lion. After a soul-searching trip to Jamaica last February, the legendary West Coast rapper (now a 40-year-old father of three) is a changed man. To prove it, he came back with a new, reggae album, Reincarnated (with help from Diplo), and a documentary of the same name (with help from Vice), premiering September 7 at the Toronto Film Festival.

The whole thing seemed suspect to me initially –- Did he smoke some new potent kind of weed we don’t know about? Is this a mid-life crisis? Is he bored? All fair scenarios, by the way, but I was still undecided. That’s why I called on someone whose opinion and musical expertise I respect greatly, Mr. Boomshots himself, Rob Kenner.

Rob is an old friend, and one of the toughest/most talented editors I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. He’s also the most prominent reggae music journalist in America. During his tenure at Vibe magazine (we met while I worked there almost a decade ago) he founded the only column in a major U.S. media outlet on all things reggae, Boomshots, which is now its own magazine/website, of which he is the publisher. His day job is Senior Editor at Complex Media Network.

Above all things, Rob is a lover of good riddims. Every Monday night from 7-10pm, you’ll find him behind the DJ booth at Miss Lily’s Variety in NYC (a West Indian-themed gallery, record store, juice bar and boutique owned by the same folks behind Miss Lily’s, the Jamaican restaurant on Houston and Sullivan) for his radio show, “Strictly Boomshots,” which is livestreamed on Everyone from Jimmy Cliff to legendary reggae producer Clive Chin has stopped by the show and it hasn’t even been on the air for a year. That tells you how much of an authority Kenner is on reggae.

Miss Lily’s is also the place where Snoop held his press conference last week to announce his reincarnation, so right after that, he walked over to Rob’s booth and the two chopped it up, settling the score once and for all about who has the best ‘vegetation,’ Jamaica or California.

So just how authentic is the Doggfather’s identity switch? Well, to his credit, Snoop has been flirting with reggae as far back as The Chronic (you can hear it clearly toward the end of “The Day The N**gaz Took Over”).

Kenner declares: “It’s sincere.” And he meant it. Here’s why.

Read the rest of this story on Fusion (ABC/Univision), where it was originally posted.

What the people who matter are saying about Frank Ocean’s coming out


His coming out yesterday did not go unnoticed. Frank Ocean, an R&B singer and member of the Odd Future hip-hop collective, openly discussed his bisexuality via an open letter on his Tumblr, where he describes the summer during which he met and fell in love with another man (his first true love) at 19, and subsequently had his heart broken.

The note that preceded his letter (which was actually a screengrab of a document he typed on TextEdit) explained that what he was about to post “was intended to fill the thank you’s section in my album credits, but with all the rumors going round.. i figured it’d be good to clarify.”

And that’s how the 24-year-old became “a free man” on America’s 236th Independence Day — and in doing so, made sure he will be remembered.

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