Chris Lighty Funeral: Hip-Hop Royalty Pay Final Respects

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chris lighty funeralNEW YORK — Hip-hop royalty including LL Cool J and Sean “Diddy” Combs packed a standing-room-only funeral chapel Wednesday to pay their respects to music-industry mogul Chris Lighty.

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Mourners at the Manhattan funeral home also included Missy Elliott, Q-Tip, Russell Simmons, Busta Rymes, 50 Cent and Grandmaster Flash.

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The 44-year-old Lighty was found dead in his Bronx apartment last week with a gunshot wound to the head. The medical examiner ruled it a suicide.

“Whatever the pressure was that made him take his life had to be tremendous pressure,” Grandmaster Flash said outside the chapel. “I just wish that Chris would have reached out and said, `Flash, I need some help, man.’ … He didn’t reach out. It’s really sad.”

Mourners filed past the flower-bedecked coffin where Lighty was laid out in a dark suit. A slideshow depicting his life appeared on a screen. By the time the service started, the chapel had become as crowded as a hot nightspot, with security guards only letting people in if someone else left.

Lighty had been a part of the hip-hop 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 recent financial and personal troubles.

He 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 website. He was a player in the hip-hop game since he was a child disc jockey. He rose through the ranks at Rush Management – Simmons’ first company – before eventually founding Violator Management in the late 1990s.

His roster ranged from Academy Award-winners Three 6 Mafia to Elliott to up-and-comer Papoose and perpetual star Carey. He made it his mission not so much to make musical superstars but rather to create multifaceted entertainers who could be marketed in an array of ways: a sneaker deal here, a soft drink partnership there, a movie role down the road.

In a 2007 interview with The Associated Press, 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 was Darrell, in April, saying he had overdrawn his account by $53,584 and then refused to pay the balance. The case was still 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 Internal Revenue Service liens last October, after selling his Manhattan apartment for $5.6 million.

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