Current Events

Remembering Hip-Hop Mogul Chris Lighty

Sitting at my desk for the past day or so, I've struggled to come up with words about numerous subjects. Since Sunday, I've had to assume control of my dad's company with him being in the hospital threatening critical condition.

I've never been more scared or felt more vulnerable at that point - for I saw the the warnings and heard all of his decrees that "I had old parents" and "I wasn't afford the luck of having young ones".

Chris Lighty had the affordance of being a father figure to many people in music, not just hip-hop. As the manager of Mariah Carey, 50 Cent and others - Lighty went from carrying crates for DJs to finding himself associated with A Tribe Called Quest and the Native Tongues. They called him "Baby Chris", most of us on the outside of the circle simply called him "Lighty" affectionately and felt proud when he brokered major deals. Lighty was found dead in his Bronx, NY apartment yesterday of an apparent suicide. He was 44.

To see rappers with sponsorship deals from soda companies, alcohol distilleries and the like these days is so "in" that we don't necessarily bat an eyelash towards it. Before 50 broke a $100 million dollar deal with Glacéau's Vitamin Water company, Busta Rhymes and ATCQ were hawking soda products.

Lighty even did the unthinkable by letting LL Cool J way before America fully accepted him as the most likable rapper in all of history - do a commercial for GAP.

Yes, GAP - the same brand we all used to abhor during school shopping days because we knew our lower income friends would make fun of us and wonder why didn't we get Jordans instead. There have been many slight back-to-school shopping horror stories I'd share here but I digress.

The point of the matter with Lighty is found in the hearts and minds of road managers and prepubescent moguls everywhere. If you wanted a blueprint for taking something already present and running it your way, Lighty was your guy. If you wanted to see how someone behind the scenes became a broker for so many different moments, how to properly angle publicists, writers, magazine editors and the sort all to come to your side -- Lighty was your guy.

His management firm Violator helmed some of the greats in urban music - a roster that included 50, Q-Tip, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes and a host of others. They were loyal to Lighty because he made sure things needed to be taken care of. And now he's gone, soon to have his legacy engulfed with the flames of questions and scrutiny because his life ended at his own hand.

He was a New York kid but his reach went far more global. Most of us are just saddened we never got to fully understand what was going on in his final days. His last tweet was proof of his loyalty to people. He was paying tribute to his fallen best friend in Boogie Down Productions DJ Scott "La Rock" Sterling who was gunned down outside of a building project in 1987.

He battled with Suge Knight, he fought with record companies and firms and in the end -- he won.

If we could only tell him that now.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell