"Chris, he was my hero," Chi-Ali told "RapFix Live" on Wednesday of the man who gave him his first record deal as a kid. "It was sad because he passed two days after I got out [of jail], and we never got to get up."
Chi-Ali was released from prison after 12 years in late August, but before he got a chance to hook up with his friend, Lighty took his own life. "Chris signed me. I was the first artist Chris Lighty signed to Violator Records when he got his deal on Relativity Records; this was before he went to Def Jam," said the rapper who put out his debut album, The Fabulous Chi-Ali, in 1992. "I was the first, I think Fat Joe was the second artist he signed. So Chris, he birthed me from that aspect."
The Bronx, New York, MC lit up as he remembered hanging out with hip-hop luminaries like De La Soul and Black Sheep. "I was just happy whenever I was around them," he said.
While Chi credits rap groups like the Beatnuts and A Tribe Called Quest with helping him write rhymes and craft his sound, it was Chris Lighty who was the chief catalyst for his career. "Chris was the one giving the yay and nay to everything. ... Chris set everything up," he said.
Though he had his humble beginnings in the music industry carrying DJ equipment for DJ Red Alert, Lighty grew to be a powerful figure in the business, managing the careers of superstars like LL Cool J, Diddy, Mariah Carey and 50 Cent, as well as Mobb Deep and Noreaga. The way Chi-Ali sees it, Chris' death left a huge void in the game. "Not just me, Chris meant so much to rap. He was a true pioneer to the game. He was a good dude," he said. "I don't think you find too many people that would say anything negative about Chris. Beautiful brother."
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