Via his Global Grind site, Russell Simmons pens an open letter to the late music figure. Read below:
“First let me say that Chris, or “Baby Chris” as his friends affectionately called him, was a generous and sweet man who used his energy and resources (yes, money) to give back to his community.
When Chris Lighty came on the scene, he was like the third or fourth member of the groups he worked with. Chris was a lot like the artists themselves: passionate, determined and a little hot headed. But as he matured, he toned it down, just enough to represent the artists and the culture he loved. He made it his life’s work to translate – but not water down – their fire. He took his artists’ work and presented it to the world in words and actions that the fans and the gatekeepers could relate to. As he grew into a respected highly successful music industry executive, he became even more polished, until one day he was no longer a part of the group, but instead the experienced, thoughtful black leader that rappers needed. He was the bridge that protected the culture, while shaping and curating the truth that was born from it. Chris was the architect who helped shape the takeover. These street kids were mostly without father figures (or at least successful father figures) and many looked to Chris to make sense of their success. Somehow he made it look easy.
Let’s face it, the record companies have decided that they know hip-hop now, so the managers, A&R teams and the indie labels are moving back towards the old boys clubs. Many of these managers are “smartly educated” kids, but have no experience with the gritty past from which these kids came from. Regardless, these new kids are “running shit.” No disrespect to them – I know they love the music and the artists – but they are no substitute for knowing where your artists came from because you lived it yourself. The fact that they lack this important life experience can be devastating to these kids’ potential and maybe even their lives. Each of their successes should lift up or at least inspire a community – where they can celebrate one of their own. Bottom line: hip-hop isn’t the same hip-hop without these black mentors to show the kids the way...”
Read more here.