Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Chris Lighty, hip-hop pioneer, commits suicide

By Aimee Kuvadia and Raphael Sugarman
Mourners, including Busta Rhymes, center, gather outside of Chris Lighty’s home on the day of his death.

Hip-hop mogul Chris Lighty, 44, born Darrell Lighty, died the morning of Aug. 30 in his single-family home in Spuyten Duyvil from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to police.

Officials said Mr. Lighty pulled the trigger at approximately 11:30 a.m., while in an argument with wife Veronica Lighty.

The medical examiner confirmed Mr. Lighty’s death to be a suicide.

They said he was found dead inside his residence at 670 W. 232nd St. with a 9-mm pistol next to his body.

It is unclear how long Mr. Lighty lived in Riverdale, but real estate website Trulia shows the single-family home was purchased for $1,145,000 on March 6 of this year. When reporters arrived at the scene there was already a U-Haul truck parked in his driveway, which was later loaded with what appeared to be boxes of his belongings.

Busta Rhymes and DJ Funkmaster Flex were among the veritable hip-hop royalty spotted on the usually quiet street, which for hours was transformed into a tearful red carpet of sorts. 

 “[Busta] ain’t in the mood to do no talkin’,” said a man who appeared to be Mr. Rhymes’ bodyguard. The rap star was seen sporadically entering and exiting a silver Rolls Royce Phantom parked nearby.

It’s no wonder that the famous flocked to the place where Mr. Lighty took his final breaths. It was Mr. Lighty who breathed the first life into many of their careers. 

The Bronxite worked with everyone from LL Cool J  and 50 Cent to Sean “Diddy” Combs and Busta Rhymes while serving as chief executive of Violator Entertainment, a music firm based out of New York specializing in managing hip-hop and R&B artists. 

Mr. Lighty is responsible for branding hip hop. He encouraged the talents he represented to take endorsement deals, which not only earned them major wealth, but also allowed them to non-conspicuously cross into the mainstream. For instance, Mr. Lighty was instrumental in facilitating the endorsement deal between his client 50 Cent and Glaceau, the maker of Vitaminwater, according to Dan Charnas, who wrote about the partnership in his book The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop.

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