Chris Lighty was "That Dude." If there was a music business counterpart to sports' Worldwide Wes, that was Lighty. Except he wasn't cloaked in mystery. You saw him sitting in the background when his client 50 Cent visited Hot 97 to do Flex's show; he popped up in the audience of Red Bull Music Academy seminars to ask Buckshot and Evil Dee questions. Before he became one of hip hop's major power brokers, you saw him working the door at the Tunnel, the greatest hip hop club of all time. But his legacy will live on because he was also seen in boardrooms.
Lighty passed away Thursday. There are reports of suicide. It's a sad end to a uniquely American success story. His road to success started in the streets ("I got my M.B.A. in hell," he told the Daily News) and culminated with him running Violator Management, hip hop's CAA. A Tribe Called Quest, Busta Rhymes, 50 Cent and many others were under Lighty's management. He did everything from wrestle classic albums (Low End Theory) out of the hands of obsessive perfectionists (Q-Tip); to help bourgeoning moguls (50 Cent) broker eight-figure deals (Vitamin Water).
The Twitter eulogies were many, heartfelt and laudatory. Given the way hip hop is splintering (all boutique everything), it is safe to say that Lighty was a Last of the Mohicans kind of breed and, likely, there will never be another.