Host Reggie Ossé (aka Combat Jack) tells the story of the music executive who changed hip-hop and shaped the careers of some of its most beloved artists: LL Cool J, Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, and more. With one of the most illustrious careers in music, Chris Lighty rose to the pinnacle of musical success before an untimely end. This story is broader than just music — it’s the story of the American Dream. The series will be hosted by Reggie and feature commentary from Russell Simmons, Fat Joe, Warren G, Troy Carter and others. It is produced in partnership with Gimlet Media and Loudspeaker Network.
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Chris Lighty’s story is the story of hip-hop. His childhood in the Bronx was soaked in 1970’s hip-hop culture, the first electric moments of a brand-new scene. Lighty fell in love with the music, and soon he was carrying crates of records for the pioneering DJ Red Alert, and hitting the road with legendary acts like The Jungle Brothers and De La Soul. Then he became a hip-hop legend himself: discovering artists like Foxy Brown and Fat Joe, making the careers of superstars like 50 Cent, LL Cool J, Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes, and masterminding some of the industry’s most lucrative deals. Lighty was the rare executive who was comfortable in both the streets and the boardroom. But while he expertly managed the lives of everyone around him, his personal problems became unmanageable. And in 2012, he was found dead at his house in the Bronx, an apparent suicide that left the music world reeling.
Touching on issues of race, mental illness, the commercialization of hip-hop, and the price of success, Mogul: The Life & Death of Chris Lighty will unpack Lighty’s’ story in a 6-episode podcast miniseries. The project features interviews with Lighty’s family and friends, stories from hip-hop luminaries like Russell Simmons, Warren G and Fat Joe, and previously unheard recordings of Chris Lighty himself. It is hosted by Reggie Ossé, who comes to the project from his critically acclaimed hip-hop interview podcast The Combat Jack Show. Produced as a collaboration between Gimlet Media and Loud Speakers Network, Mogul will be released as a Spotify exclusive on April 27.
In this episode, we meet Chris and his family and hear about what it was like to grow up in the Bronx in the 1970s. We also learn about a new form of music that started to germinate through park jams held across the city—the music that would come to be known as hip hop. From there, we follow Chris from the park jams to the emerging hip hop club scene, where he takes the first step on the road to becoming a mogul.
Voices: DJ Red Alert, Fat Joe, Jessica Brooks (Chris’ mom), Nicole Lighty (Chris’ sister), Darryl Thompson (Chris’ best friend), Chris Ali (Chris’ childhood friend), Dan Charnas, Joan Morgan, and AB Butler.
In this episode, Chris really kicks off his career in the music industry, road managing the Jungle Brothers and touring with them across the US. After a successful stint with the JBs, Chris’ talent is recognized by Lyor Cohen of Def Jam. The transition from scrappy road manager to hip hop executive is not an easy one, though, and to really succeed, Chris will be forced to leave his past behind.
Voices: Russell Simmons, The Jungle Brothers, DJ Red Alert, Dan Charnas, Chris Ali, and Chris Lighty.
In this episode, Chris rises through the ranks of Def Jam and has his first big break in the industry when he signs the then-unknown Warren G. Warren’s first album is massive and Chris is, for the first time, taken seriously as a creative executive. But he’ll still need his street smarts when an epic showdown with hip hop’s bogeyman, Suge Knight, happens at the climax of the episode.
Voices: Warren G, Paul Stewart, Russell Simmons, Dan Charnas, and Chris Lighty.
In this episode, we discover that being a hip hop manager isn’t all champagne, private jets, and 5 star hotels. In fact, it’s a job that’s incredibly stressful, particularly when you’re managing a number of temperamental and unpredictable performers. To make matters worse, Chris’ hot streak at Def Jam ends, and he is eclipsed by a new wave of executives.
Voices: Fat Joe, D Nice, N.O.R.E, Blue Williams, Sophia Chang, Kevin Liles, and Chris Lighty.
When this episode begins, Chris is at a career low-point. He’s on his way out of Def Jam and a number of recent ventures haven’t paid off. So he takes a chance on a controversial rapper from Queens who was, at the time, an industry pariah. That rapper turns out to be 50 Cent, and the pair make millions together through their Vitamin Water endorsement deal. But success in hip-hop is fleeting, and chaos in Chris’ personal life puts him back at the grind, hustling for his next big deal in the midst of a global recession.
Voices: Sha Money XL, Dan Charnas, Sophia Chang, Tiffany Lighty (Chris’ Daughter).
Chris’ life ends suddenly in 2012. In this episode, we find out the circumstances surrounding his death, and probe what actually happened on the day he died.
Voices: Tiffany Lighty, Jessica Brooks, Nicole Lighty, Darryl Thompson, Chris Ali, Sophia Chang, Joan Morgan, and AB Butler.