Can we please have several moments of silence for Chris Lighty, a visionary manager of hip-hop stars, who passed away on Thursday (Aug. 30) at age 44.
According to the New York Daily News, the Hip-Hop mogul was found dead at his Bronx apartment from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Authorities did recover a black semi-automatic pistol at the scene. Sources in law enforcement also told the newspaper that Lighty was going through some personal and financial struggles, including owing the IRS $5 million in unpaid taxes.
Mr. Lighty (aka "Baby Chris") started his career in the late 1980s working at Russell Simmons' RUSH Management firm and learning the ropes of the music business under the tutelage of Lyor Cohen at Def Jam Recordings. He later founded Violator Entertainment, which managed a roster of hip-hop's biggest rap superstars including 50 Cent, Busta Rhymes, Q-Tip, Fat Joe, Ja Rule, Jungle Brothers, LL Cool J and many others. He was instrumental in introducing corporate America to hip-hop and helped rap artists with branding themselves to fashion labels and sneaker companies during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
It was Lighty who convinced Gap to have LL Cool J promote its apparel and he secured endorsement deals for Busta Rhymes (with Mountain Dew) and A Tribe Called Quest (with Sprite's "Obey Your Thirst" campaign). Lighty also brokered an investment deal between 50 Cent and Glaceau (makers of Vitamin water) in 2004. Two years later, Coca-Cola buys out Glaceau for $1.2 billion and Fiddy pockets an estimated $60-100 million.
"I am deeply saddened by the loss of a hip-hop hero," said Russell Simmons in a statement. "Chris Lighty has been a dear friend of mine since he was a kid. Was a brilliant partner in business and I was so proud of all that he had accomplished. He is an amazing example of how a passionate kid from the street can go to the most even-keeled, smart, thoughtful manager in the business and a generous philanthropist. He was loved by everyone who knew him, including me. He will be missed greatly by all of us."
Moments after hearing the devastating news, the hip-hop community took to Twitter to share their condolences.
Rest in Power, Chris Lighty. You were a visionary in the rap game and your impact will be forever felt in hip-hop. Thank you. Heartfelt condolences to the Lighty Family.