Remembering Chris Lighty, Hip-Hop Leader And My Friend
by Danyel Smith former editor of Billboard and Vibe
He was a big man, Chris Lighty.
Wide, and tall. Shoulders that stretched from Hollywood to New York City. But his normal speaking voice ranked just above a whisper. As a teenager he carried records for DJs. As a professional, he carried water for an industry and for a culture. Lighty — who with co-owner Mona Scott ran Violator Records and Violator Management, who founded Brand Asset Management and worked closely with Russell Simmons and Lyor Cohen in the early days of Rush Artist Management — died Thursday. He was 44.
He has managed (among others) the careers of 50 Cent, Missy Elliott, LL Cool J, Mariah Carey, Busta Rhymes and Foxy Brown. Those who dislike the commercialization of hip-hop may see only money signs in Lighty's move to brand the game: Long before he negotiated what would become 50 Cent's $100 million deal with Glacéau's Vitamin Water, Violator worked out LL's commercial with the Gap in the late 1990s, as well as Busta and A Tribe Called Quest's early deals with soda companies.