Chris Lighty: Hip-hop entrepreneur


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The Independent Online

Chris Lighty, who died on 30 August aged 44, having apparently killed himself, was a hip-hop mogul who managed Sean "Diddy" Combs, 50 Cent and Mariah Carey, helping lead the way in making money for pop stars outside music. "As music sales go down because kids are stealing it off the internet and trading it and MP3 sales continue to rise, you can't rely on just the income that you would make off being an artist," he said.

Born in the Bronx in 1968, he was one of seven children raised by a single mother in one of the housing projects there. He was taken on by the Def Jam co-founder, Russell Simmons, then in the 1990s he formed his own management company, Violator Records, named after a Bronx gang of which he had been a member.

He soon began to make money for his clients, securing a Gap advertisement for LL Cool J. He cut similar deals for the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes and Missy Elliott, while for 50 Cent he negotiated what turned out to be one of the most lucrative deals in the history of hip-hop, with Vitamin Water. When the company was sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1bn, 50 Cent received $100m.

Lighty was found in his New York apartment with a shot to the head; he was going through a divorce and had been having financial and personal problems.