Hip-hop flags are at half-staff Thursday as one of the brick workers in building the foundation of hip-hop has died. Chris Lighty, the
founder of Violator Management, was found dead in what several news sources are calling an apparent suicide. According to the NY Daily News, cops found the 44-year-old Lighty in his Bronx N.Y. apartment around 11:30 a.m.
Lighty literally had a hand in working with, crafting, or influencing the sound that is played on radios today.
In 2008 he was profiled in Crain’s New York, 40 under 40. In the interview he credited his tough Bronx upbringing for making him hungry to succeed. He turned down a college scholarship in order to stay behind and help his family with bills. During the day, he would work as an electrician and at night he would tote album crates for Kool DJ Red Alert, the staunch business magazine reported.
In the early 80’s Lighty worked with Native Tongue affiliates Jungle Brothers where he described himself as everything from the manager to the garbage man, in an allindstron.com documentary. From there he started working at Rush Management having a hand in all projects from Big Daddy Kane to Brand Nubian. He later started Violator, a management company that would also branch into a music label. Lighty worked with such artist as, Mariah Carey, Q-tip, Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J, Nas and more.
The news hit Twitter like a scratched break beat.
Questlove, the eccentric drummer from The Roots, was on a plane when the news found him. He tweeted, “Just landed, why am I getting all these Chris Lighty texts…”
His next tweet was simply, “Oh No.”
Although reports are still unclear as to the nature of his death, Lighty was recently divorced. The NY Daily News reported that in 2008 he was believed to be worth some $200 million dollars but was currently in debt to the IRS for about $5 million.
In Crain’s 40 under 40 feature, which lauded the hip hop mogul as a true American success, he said: “When you’re growing up in the Reagan era, you really learn the value of a food stamp—and you never want to go back there.”
Stephen A. Crockett Jr is a regular contributor to TheRootDC.
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