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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.