By Nadeska Alexis with additional reporting by Ade Mangum
News of Lighty’s death sent the hip-hop community reeling on August 30, when it was revealed he had committed suicide outside of his Bronx, New York home. While the initial shock may have subsided since then, it was still easy to read pain on the tear-streaked faces of artists like Diddy, Busta Rhymes, Mary J. Blige and LL Cool J, who were on hand to bid him a final farewell.
A small crowd remained in front of the Frank E. Campbell funeral home on Madison Avenue well after the service began around 9 a.m., and when attendees began to file out shortly after 1 p.m., few words were necessary to express their grief.
Diddy and LL Cool J shared a moment outside of the funeral home, embracing and comforting each other after losing their close friend. Lighty had once been manager to both stars. “He was a jewel and a treasured person in the community,” an emotional LL told MTV News. “Just one of the architects of our culture and he was my friend.”
Before beginning work at Rush Management in 1988 under the guidance of Lyor Cohen and Russell Simmons — who were also at the funeral to mourn their friend — Lighty got his start in the biz with the legendary Kool DJ Red Alert than later taking on odd jobs for the Jungle Brothers and later established Violator Management, which recently merged with Primary Wave to create Primary Violator management company.
“Every [moment] I’ve had with Chris was always adventurous and the most I learned from him was just about being a man,” Jungle Brothers’ Mike Gee told MTV News. “He was a great man, he handled responsibility with care and always looked ahead. I miss him but he’s always with me. Part of me, what I’ve turned into, is because of Chris. I can’t thank him enough.”
Over the years Lighty was responsible for launching the careers of many artists like 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes, who were both in attendance, and many of them regarded him as a father figure. Lighty’s wife and children exited the funeral home when the casket was moved outside to be transported to the George Washington Memorial Cemetery, but Busta Rhymes was one of the last stars to leave the scene, lingering nearby to exchange hugs and emotional words with friends.
“Chris Lighty was a great friend of mine, a mentor, he was my manager,” Uncle Murda told MTV News, recalling how much Lighty meant to him. “He got me both of my record deals, the first one with Jay-Z and the recent one I have now now with L.A. Reid. I just made it into his office, where he puts your name up on the big wall. I use to come in there for years, see 50 Cent all the time, Busta Rhymes, Mariah Carey — and I finally made it. I’m just happy I was able to meet him and work with him.”
Papoose, who was managed by Lighty, shared that the beloved industry veteran changed his life and the course of his career, calling him “an inspiration and the backbone of the culture.”
“I remember when I first came into the game and I had [about] 15 mixtapes already, but I still didn’t have a record deal,” Papoose explained. “Busta [Rhymes] introduced me to Chris Lighty and I wound up with a $1.5 million deal. He helped changed my life with that record deal and was a good person for advice, if you needed advice in the game.”
During the service, Cohen and artists like Q-Tip and Busta Rhymes shared their personal memories of the man who helped to shape their careers.
“He was just overall a good person and a smart person,” Yo Gotti told MTV News, echoing the sentiments of all those in attendance. “He helped a lot of people, he helped me understand a lot of things, showed me a lot of things and we just miss him.”