“Play No Games” [Chris Lighty’s 2003 XXL In-Book Story]
Upon meeting him, you’d be hard-pressed to figure Lighty for a marked man—even a famous one. Dressed casually, and still blessed with the boyish visage that earned him the nickname “Baby” back in the day, the soft-spoken 33-year-old is a striking contrast to the stereotypical industry bigwig. His manner is reserved, even a bit guarded. But make no mistake, the guy is a shot-caller. On top of running Violator with partners James Cruz and Mona Scott, Lighty was recently named vice president of the super-successful Jive Records.
“Jamaicans have to have 10 jobs,” he says, chuckling, of his decision to joint the label that boasts Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, ‘NSync and R. Kelly. “This will give Violator an outlet for the music, and also to just grow—myself, executive wise, career-wise.”
Lighty’s influence is already evident at HQ for pedophiles and pop tarts. He brought Mobb Deep over with him, and is anxious to facilitate the much-rumored reunion album from disbanded Jive act, A Tribe Called Quest. (He’s careful, though, to point out that the latter is a long way from fruition.)
This particular April afternoon Lighty is making a pit stop at the office he flies off to Miami in a private jet with Interscope’s Jimmy Iovine. Life is hectic, and Lighty is multitasking up a storm—checking his pager, answering my questions and staring intently at the flickering screen of his laptop. When I remark that, considering all the headlines, it might be dangerous to be in the same room with him, Lighty looks annoyed and defiant. “It’s a lot of hype,” he says, with a frown. “If they really wanted me, I walk the street every day.”
Lighty refers to the ongoing drama as “stupid,” and chalks up much of the underlying motivation to petty childhood issues stretching back to the Queens streets where 50 and Irv Gotti were raised. (The FBI is currently investigating the relationship between Gotti and convicted drug kingpin Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff.)
“It’s unfortunate that people in hip-hop want to do stupid thing,” he says, “and be envious and jealous and make dumb decisions. That’s why we’ll see where everyone’s company is in the next couple of months.” The reference seems aimed at Murder Inc., leading me to ask—though I’m pretty sure I know the answer—whether Violator thinks that Irv Gotti and his many men are behind the shootings. Lighty stares at me, his expression utterly deadpan, “We think? Yeah, we think. The police think. The newspapers think. The world thinks.”
(On January 18, New York Newsday reported: “A mysery shooter opened fire in the hallway outside a Chelsea firm that manages a number of high-profile rappers, including 50 Cent and Ja Rule [sic], police said Friday. Police suspect the shooting might be connted to the feud between the two men.” In May, in response to questions about Murder Inc.’s alleged connection to the Violator shootings, an NYPD spokesman refused comment, saying only that, “The investigation is still ongoing at this time.” A Murder Inc. publicist offered an official “No comment.”)
So what can be done to put out the fire?
“They need to see a psychiatrist or something,” Lighty shrugs. “I don’t know. We’re keeping it moving. There’s no more sitting down. No more conversations, no more waving white flags. It is what it is.”
When it’s suggested that all parties involved might do well with a little group therapy (taking Jay-Z’s “Sensitive thugs, y’all all need hugs advice to the next medical level), Lighty nods his head. “This reality is that we could all make money and never have to cross paths. It’s very childish and foolish to put people’s lives in jeopardy and have to have security, to replace walls, have bulletproof cars, bulletproof doors. It’s ridiculous…I have a 13-year-old daughter. It’s not cute that she has to read these things or that kids come up to her. It’s not good for their kids either. People live in real nice homes in New Jersey, Westchester is a nice area. Come on! We live in pretty well-made neighborhoods. I’ve been to all their weddings, brought gifts, it’s the stupidest thing that I’ve ever seen.”
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