May 8, 1968|
The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||August 30, 2012
The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Occupation||Music industry executive|
|Website||Home - Violator|
Chris Lighty (May 8, 1968 – August 30, 2012) was an American music industry executive. He co-founded Violator, a record label, management and marketing company, which represented hip hop artists such as Nas, Ja Rule, Mobb Deep, Missy Elliott, L.L. Cool J, Uncle Murda, and 50 Cent. He served as Sean "Diddy" Combs' manager. The New York Times called him "one of the most powerful figures in the hip-hop business."
Lighty was born in the Bronx, New York and raised in the Bronx River Housing Projects. His mother was single. He had five siblings. He did not attend college, and stated that he got his "M.B.A. in hell," in reference to growing up on the streets of a dangerous neighborhood.
Lighty got his start in the music industry by carrying vinyl record crates for DJ Red Alert. Then Russell Simmons' company, Rush Management, hired him. Lighty founded a management company in the early 1990s called Violator; the company is named after the gang he belonged to in the Bronx. Violator was responsible for getting L.L. Cool J his first Gap commercial in 1997. He also developed endorsements for Sprite with A Tribe Called Quest, AT&T with Diggy Simmons, and for Mountain Dew with Busta Rhymes.
In 2002, Lighty & a DJ from Chicago DJ SCRAP Dirty made The Violator Allstar DJs "I started carrying crates for Red Alert," Lighty told AllHipHop.com. "We wanted to build a situation for the DJ’s who might need more muscle. It’s an honor to give back to the DJ’s, create an outlet for everyone and show how important these guys are." DJ Scrap Dirty, who also founded the DJ coalition The Tech.Nitions, said that the mixshow DJ community was suffering from infighting, something Violator All-Star DJ’s hope to end. The same year he appeared in the Electronic Arts video game "Def Jam: Fight For NY as the character "Baby Chris". In 2004, Lighty brokered the largest brand endorsement deal in hip hop to date. He was the architect of what turned out to be one of the most lucrative deals in hip hop history: 50 Cent’s Vitamin Water pact. When Coca-Cola paid $4.1 billion for the company three years later, 50 Cent walked away with $100 million, and Lighty received an undisclosed sum.
In 2011, Lighty launched the website "pleaselistentomydemo.com", which allowed new artists to submit their music online and have top music executives listen to it for a fee of $10USD. The site is no longer active.
Lighty worked for Def Jam, Jive and Loud. He was chief executive of the Brand Asset Group. In 2011, Violator merged with another company called Primary Wave; the two companies merged to form Primary Violator. Music Manager Leon Youngblood brokered a deal with Chris Lighty to get his son Roccstar signed to Violator in 2011, Chris signed off on the deal in May 2011.
On August 30, 2012, Lighty was found dead in his Bronx apartment from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The New York Daily News reported that "a gun shot was heard and Lighty was found lying face-up with a 9mm pistol next to his body". Forbes magazine reported that he had been involved in an argument with his ex-wife Veronica not too long before his body was discovered.
Lighty's brother said that he doesn't believe that his death was suicide and that the family is now staging its own private independent investigation which they will go public with once solid details emerge. Rapper and close friend of Chris, 50 Cent also questioned the suicide claim and hired a team to investigate the details of the incident, at the request of Lighty's mother. Friend and rapper Papoose also questioned that Chris Lighty committed suicide in the song, "Obituary 2012".
- Conley, Kirstan (August 31, 2012). "Hip-hop mogul Chris Lighty battled money, marriage woes prior to suicide: sources". New York Post.
- Thomasos, Christine (August 30, 2012). "Chris Lighty's Death Shakes Hip-Hop World; Celebrities in Mourning". The Christian Post. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
- Sisario, Ben (30 August 2012). "Chris Lighty, Manager of Hip-Hop Stars, Dies at 44". New York Times. Retrieved 30 August 2012.
- Greenburg, Zack O'Malley (August 30, 2012). "Hip-Hop Business Pioneer Chris Lighty Dead At 44". Forbes.
- Osorio, Kim (May 10, 2011). "Chris Lighty Launches New Website". BET. Retrieved May 10, 2011.
- Kemp, Joe (August 30, 2012). "Hip-hop manager Chris Lighty dead after shooting himself outside his Bronx apartment: cops". Daily News. Retrieved August 30, 2012.