Chi Ali has paid his debt to society, and now, the former kiddie MC is out of prison after 12 long years.
Since he returned home two weeks ago, Chi Ali Griffin has reunited with a bunch of his old rap friends like Fat Joe and even made some new ones like Lil Wayne, but one man he didn't get to see was his mentor Chris Lighty, who committed suicide on August 30, just days after Ali was released. "Chris was how I got in the game, he was a mentor to me. To see him grow to the levels he grew to was incredible. He was another person I was hoping to see and kick it with," Chi Ali told "RapFix Live" in an exclusive interview.
Chi made his first rap appearance as a teenager on Black Sheep's "Pass the 40," a track off of the group's 1991 debut album A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing. While Lighty appeared rapping on the same track, his gift wasn't in the booth, but in the boardroom, where he helped guide the careers of the Native Tongues rap crew, which consisted of Chi Ali, Black Sheep, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and many others. "He was the person that probably put the Native Tongues together as a whole," Chi Ali said of Lighty. "Him and maybe [DJ] Red Alert."
Lighty, of course, went on to start Violator Management, where he guided the careers of musical superstars like 50 Cent, Mariah Carey and Diddy. Hours before Lighty took his own life, Chi Ali got a message from Black Sheep member Dres that Chris wanted to see his old friend, but those plans never panned out. "I'm in the post office and Dres from Black Sheep calls my phone and says, 'Yo did you hear what happened to Chris,' " Chi Ali said, recalling the moment he learned of Lighty's death.
"I was only home two days, so that was definitely devastating to me. I still don't know how to look at the situation," Ali said. "I don't know if there was funny business behind it, I don't know. I haven't been here; I'm not privy to that information. But I know Chris was a good dude that was a beautiful brother."
While the rapper is grieving for his friend, he is happy to be home. "It's a feeling that words can't describe properly," he said. "Being back into a normal lifestyle is great. I'm truly blessed."
In January 2000, eight years after he released his debut album The Fabulous Chi-Ali, Griffin shot and killed his ex-girlfriend's brother in Bronx, New York. Ali went on the run for 15 months, appeared on "America's Most Wanted" and then was eventually apprehended and served 12 years out of a 14-year prison sentence after taking a plea deal.
"It feels great," Chi Ali said. "The feeling is surreal to be back in the free world amongst my family."