Chris Lighty, founder of Violator Entertainment and manager to music heavyweights such as Mariah Carey and LL Cool J, has died at the age of 44.
Police responded to a call at 670 West 232nd Street in the Bronx, New York, at approximately 11:30 a.m. on Thursday (August 30). Officers discovered Lighty with a gunshot wound to the head and he was pronounced dead at the scene. Authorities recovered a black semi-automatic pistol at the scene and tell MTV News that Lighty’s wound appear to be self-inflicted.
Lighty got his start in the 1980s, building his reputation from the ground up. He emerged from the Native Tongues camp and went on to start Violator, which has helped to launch the careers of stars such as Missy Elliott, Q-Tip, Busta Rhymes, Nas, LL Cool J and more.
According to the New York Daily News, Lighty had been dealing with some personal issues that included a divorce from his wife last year and an IRS debt that totaled around $5 million.
As news of his death broke, members of the hip-hop community who have worked with Lighty began tweeting out their disbelief that he was gone. A message from Def Jam Records’ Twitter account read, “We lost a great one today, Rest in Peace Chris Lighty. Forever in our hearts. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”
Fat Joe, who has worked closely with Lighty, wrote, “R.I.P CHRIS LIGHTY THE MAN THAT SAVED MY LIFE!!! I Would Be Nothing Without YOU!!! My Kids Appreciate YOU God Bless Chris Lighty.” Saigon added, “If this Chris Lighty sh– is true, that just f—ed up my whole YEAR. He was my manager for 2 years.”
Lighty began working at Rush Management, under the guidance of Lyor Cohen and Russell Simmons, in 1988, picking up the savvy marketing skills and brand-building expertise that would later culminate in Violator. Upon hearing the news of his death, Simmons issued a somber statement. “I am deeply saddened by the loss of a hip-hop hero. Chris Lighty has been a dear friend of mine since he was a kid. Was a brilliant partner in business and I was so proud of all that he had accomplished,” Simmons wrote via Global Grind. “He is 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. He was loved by everyone who knew him, including me. He will be missed greatly by all of us.”
In recent years he teamed up with Warner Music Group to launch Brand Asset Group, in an effort to further his knack for branding to a wider range of artists and last September merged with Primary Wave to create Primary Violator management company.
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