Chris Lighty's Birthday Celebration Was Filled With More Life, Love + Legacy [Recap]
Photos of Mogul: Chris Lighty taken by Jamie McCarthy / Getty Images.
The name Chris Lighty still invokes strong feelings even after his death in 2012. The man behind A Tribe Called Quest to Busta Rhymes to 50 Cent, he was directly responsible for pushing the hip-hop culture forward. As the industry itself was becoming million dollar video budgets, multi-platinum album sales — Chris was building an empire fueled by superstar talents with Violator Entertainment. When he left us almost five years ago this coming August, a large void was created in his wake. Now, as an observer and chronicler of the culture, Chris Lighty, also known as “Baby Chris” was a tastemaker, yet since his passing there was nothing left to document his mark on the game.
Enter: Combat Jack, also known as Reggie Ossé, the Loud Speakers Network and Gimlet Media. Together, these power players decided to fill in the gap missing from hip-hop’s story by creating a six-episode serialized podcast about the life and legacy of Chris Lighty. Produced by Ossé’s Loud Speakers Network partner Christopher Morrow, Mogul: The Life & Death Of Chris Lighty detailed the rise and unfortunate fall of one of the game’s more visceral and future-minded executives. The project, which airs exclusively through Spotify, was heart wrenching, detailed and full of those memories that hardcore music nerds (like me) could gleam nuggets and jewels from. It was a moment that not only showed how far the rap / hip-hop industry has come since the late ’90s / early 2000s, but it also proved just how impactful Chris Lighty‘s life truly is.
Last night (May 8), those closest to Chris gathered at New York City’s Marquee nightclub to celebrate what would’ve been the exec’s 49th birthday. For a lower level player in the game (me) — it was an opportunity to see those who inspired me growing up, while honoring the impact Chris Light had on me directly (FYI: I was one of the few in my circle who knew the execs names, as well as the rapper). Upon entering into the venue, I immediately saw old friends and faces who I came into this game with. People like ItsTheReal (The Rosenthal Brothers), Jason Negron, Jayson Rodriguez, AB Butler, MeLa Machinko, Dallas Penn, DJ Benhameen and Ken Gibbs Jr. to name a few.
As we came together, caught up and pay homage, Baby Chris’s eldest daughter, Tiffany Lighty, took to the stage after formalities were exchanged between Combat Jack and the audience. The heart strings were pulled, yanked, tangled up in a knot and thrown back into our chest as soon as she shared recollections about her relationship with her father. “I was walking up the stairs to his bedroom, and already you can hear him turning up his music,” she said to the engaged collective of faces in the room. “I go in and he starts to tell me about my curfew, which was midnight, still late for a person my age, I admit. I ask him why 12, and he had Whodini’s ‘Freaks Come Out At Night’ playing, and rapped to me the hook as his answer.” Their father-daughter union was the result of him being a “hard-working black dad,” and her being understanding about the opportunities he provided for her. “He told me that my gift for college was… no student loans,” she shared. It was truly an emotional moment that cemented just how hard his loss hit across the board.
“So many questions I have for him,” Tiffany Lighty said, fighting back tears. “Should I start an LLC,” of which the crowd answered, “Yes!” “What insurance should I have? Can you believe that [Donald] Trump is president?” Chris’s spirit permeated the room. You could feel him embracing us all as we searched our own memory banks recounting a time when he made us feel better or enriched our lives in some way. “I know what it means to be from the Bronx [because of you], dad. Thank you,” Tiffany said, closing out one of the most emotional moments of the night. As DJ D-Nice spun classic hits from the Violator family — the room broke into song and dance, feeling the energy from those acts we all were an integral part of our listening fabric.
While jamming out to “Pass The Courvoisier,” I passed Busta Rhymes and his bodyguard who could serve as a twin to Jason Mamoa. I had an illuminating chat with the series’ creator, Reggie Ossé, who promised more surprises to come. Unfortunately there is none that I can share with you all in this piece. I ran across AB Butler, who was one of the first guys to give me some advice when I entered into this business, and it was just good to see a friendly face. Before exiting for the night, it was a brief chat with my good friend, A-King, who serves as the executive producer behind The Combat Jack Show and the Weekly Drop Podcast, that stuck with me for the rest of the evening. “Yo, it’s wild how we all came together back in the day, and through all these ups and downs, we’re still flourishing,” King told me. I said it was wild how we went from listening, damn near worshipping at the altar of the likes of Fat Joe, Frankie Cutlass, Foxy Brown, The Beatnuts, to standing amongst them representing the business in a major way. “Yeah, man, it’s powerful and we’re only just getting started.”
Mogul: The Life & Death Of Chris Lighty is out now, exclusively via Spotify, and you should listen to this as soon as possible.