I always had a crush on Chris Lighty. I remember seeing him back in the 90s, standing alongside certified hip-hop heartthrobs like Special Ed and D-Nice, and fawning over him just as hard as everyone else was swooning over the rappers. He is a legend—his handprint is all over the careers of some of the greatest people to ever write down or deliver a rhyme—and he’ll be remembered for facilitating hip-hop’s talent with integrity and respect for the culture and the music, not just the dollars around it.
Rapper and fellow Bronx native Fat Joe tweeted a sentiment in reaction to Lighty’s death that likely echoes the thoughts of so many other artists and colleagues who worked with him: “R.I.P. Chris Lighty. That man saved my life.”
In fact, Twitter was on fire all afternoon with news about his passing. Chris Lighty was manager to 50 Cent, LL Cool J, Missy Elliott, and Diddy and founder of Violator, which was the management company. For a while there, it got as many shout-outs in hip-hop lyrics as hometown neighborhoods and God. He was the consummate businessman before hip-hop became a big corporate commodity, and the deals he struck for his clients let artists know there were bigger possibilities for them than dropping albums in assembly-line succession.
Rumors are swirling around why Lighty took his life but nothing is for certain yet. Doesn’t matter, really. I was genuinely sad, not just because he died but because of how he died. My heart always goes out to people who commit suicide because there has to be an ultimate moment of desperation, frustration, and hopelessness to make that decision to pull that trigger or pop those pills or take out that razor blade. Anybody who’s ever had a dark period in their life should be able to relate.
Celebrity deaths are hot news for a hot minute, then fade into fleeting memorials on New Year’s Eve when we reflect on the noteworthy people we lost over the last 365 days. Chris Lighty will unfortunately be one of them. But his memory will always be surrounded with the respect of people who love the music and love what he did for it during his lifetime.
What’s your favorite hip-hop era?
Image via Violator.com