May 08, 2021

Happy Born Day, Chris Lighty! (Mogul, 2017)

In the new Spotify-exclusive series Mogul: The Life & Death of Chris Lighty, Ossé chronicles the rise and tragic fall of one of hip-hop's most beloved and pivotal industry executives through in-depth interviews with the former celebrity clients, family and friends who knew him best. A collaborative production between Loud Speakers and Gimlet Media (Startup), Mogul is the first major foray into narrative storytelling for a hip-hop podcast. It's also the result of a cross-pollination between two digital media companies with very different core audiences and platforms — one known for producing personality-driven shows with in-depth interviews and loose talk for urban listeners, the other spawned from the public radio world where journalistic, serial storytelling is prized. The result is a six-part series that dives deep into the groundbreaking success and questionable death of a figure as instrumental to hip-hop's mainstream dominance as the stars whose careers he guided. More than an artist manager, Lighty was a street legend who "fought his way from the Bronx to the boardroom to become one of the most powerful players in hip-hop...."

Lighty's own transformation reflected hip-hop's origin story as the culture rose from the concrete jungle of the South Bronx, where white flight, urban decay, poverty and gangs left a void ripe for rebirth. True to his roots from the streets to the suites, Lighty would use the name of his former crew of hard rocks, the Violators, to brand his eventual Violator Management company and later, Violator Records. A shortlist of his clients reads like a roll call for hip-hop's hall of fame: A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes, Fat Joe, 50 Cent and so on. Because he was of the culture, too, he earned a reputation as a manager who spoke his artists' language and translated it into monumental deals. But it's Lighty's tragic passing, ruled a suicide in 2012, that makes his story similar to so many hip-hop icons whose deaths remain mysterious. It also made unearthing the details of his life that much harder. With the first two episodes, Ossé talked about why making Mogul was such a scary endeavor, how he gained the trust of those closest to Lighty who were reluctant to participate, and what he hopes this narrative endeavor could mean for the future of hip-hop podcasting. - NPR (2017). Rest In Peace to Chris Lighty and Reggie Ossé (Combat Jack), two amazing brothers that the world surely misses as their impact continues to be felt to this very day. My heart remains truly heavy, but this series is a masterpiece in hip-hop journalism.