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Hip Hop Mogul, Chris Lighty, Dead at 44

The Internet is abuzz with the news; Chris Lighty, manager (a much too understated title) to 50 Cent and a pantheon of hip-hop notables is dead at the age of 44, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot wound reports the NY Times.

“Why?”, is the question on everyone’s lips. Why would a person, to all appearances, sitting on top of the world take his own life? Was he depressed? Were there warnings? Did he leave a note? Questions, questions and more questions with only one definitive answer still, thus far, Chris Lighty is dead.

We asked those same questions and reacted in much the same way when Def Jam’s Shakir Stewart committed suicide in Atlanta in 2008. Is there something that inherently takes a toll on a person in this position or is it just tragic coincidence? More questions.

According to the Times, Lighty, an influential manager of hip-hop stars like 50 Cent, LL Cool J, Missy Elliott and Diddy, was found dead on Thursday morning at his home in the Bronx.

The police confirmed that Mr. Lighty was found dead at his home, and said that they were investigating the death as a suicide. A representative of Mr. Lighty’s company, Primary Violator, did not immediately respond to requests for information.

One of the most powerful figures in the hip-hop business, Mr. Lighty helped establish the genre as a major commercial force — complete with huge record deals and tie-ins with commercial brands — during its peak in the 1990s and early 2000s. Violator, which he founded in the early 1990s, was the dominant management company in hip-hop at the time, with a stable of stars that, like Mr. Lighty himself, had street roots and big-business ambitions.

Mr. Lighty arranged a prominent Gap commercial for LL Cool J in 1997, and also struck endorsement deals for his clients Busta Rhymes (with Mountain Dew) and A Tribe Called Quest (with Sprite).

In one of his most notable deals, Mr. Lighty negotiated a partnership in 2004 between 50 Cent and the beverage company Glacéau that gave the rapper a stake in the company and his own flavor of its Vitaminwater drink. When Coca-Cola bought Glacéau three years later for over $4 billion, 50 Cent’s take was estimated to be worth up to $100 million.

In a blog post on Thursday, Russell Simmons, whose company Rush Management gave Mr. Lighty his start in the music business, called him “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.”

Mr. Lighty was born in the Bronx, one of six children raised by a single mother. He grew up in the Bronx River projects and, like Jay-Z and other giants of the rap world, he often said that he learned the basics of business surviving on the streets.

“I got my M.B.A. in hell,” Mr. Lighty said in an interview with The Daily News in 2007. That year his company announced that its clients had sold a total of 80 million records…

Read more: NY Times

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