Hip-hop mogul found dead in his N.Y. homeNEW YORK - Chris Lighty, a hip-hop mogul who helped the likes of Sean “Diddy’’ Combs, 50 Cent and Mariah Carey attain hit records and lucrative careers outside music, was found dead in his New York apartment Thursday in an apparent suicide. He was 44.
He was found at his home in the Bronx with a gunshot to the head, police said. No note was recovered, but a 9 mm handgun was found and there was no sign of forced entry, said Paul Browne, a police spokesman. The shooting appears to be self-inflicted, authorities said.
Lighty had been a part of the scene for decades, working with pioneers like LL Cool J before starting his own management company, Violator. But he was in the midst of a divorce and had been having financial troubles.
Twitter was abuzz with condolences hours after the body was found about 11:30 a.m.
50 Cent said in a statement issued through his publicist that he was deeply saddened.
“Chris has been an important part of my business and personal growth for a decade,” he said. “He was a good friend and adviser who helped me develop as an artist and businessman. My prayers are with his family. He will be greatly missed.”
Lighty was raised by his mother in the Bronx as one of six children. He ran with a group called the Violators, the inspiration for the name of his management company, according to the company Web site. He was a player in the hip-hop game since he was a kid DJ. He rose through the ranks at Rush Management - mogul Russell Simmons’ first company - before eventually founding Violator Management in the late 1990s.
“Today, we lost a hip-hop hero and one of its greatest architects,” Simmons tweeted.
Lighty’s roster ranged from Academy Award-winners Three 6 Mafia to maverick Missy Elliott to up-and-comer Papoose and perpetual star Carey. He made it his mission to create multifaceted entertainers who could be marketed in an array of ways: a sneaker deal here, a movie role down the road.
In a 2007 interview, Lighty talked about creating opportunities for his stars - a Chapstick deal for LL Cool J, known for licking his lips, and a vitamin supplement deal for 50 Cent.
“As music sales go down because kids are stealing it off the Internet and trading it and iPod sales continue to rise, you can’t rely on just the income that you would make off of being an artist,” he said at the time.
Survivors include his two children. He and his wife, Veronica, had been in the process of divorcing. The case was still listed as active, but electronic records show an agreement to end it was filed in June.
He was also having financial trouble. City National Bank sued Lighty, whose given name is Darrell, in April, saying he had overdrawn his account by $53,584 and then refused to pay the balance. The case was pending.
He also owed more than $330,000 in state and federal taxes, according to legal filings. His tax problems were much steeper a year ago, but he cleared away millions of dollars in earlier IRS liens last October, after selling his Manhattan apartment for $5.6 million.