×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Spotify Podcast ‘Mogul’ Details the Tragic Story of Pioneering Hip-Hop Exec Chris Lighty

The former manager of Missy Elliott and Diddy, who pioneered hip-hop's branding deals, committed suicide in 2012

Just two months after announcing its podcast initiative with Gimlet Media, Spotify is stepping up as a serious contender with its most ambitious effort to date.

“Mogul: The Life & Death of Chris Lighty” — a six-part Spotify Original series that was produced in partnership with Gimlet Media and Loudspeaker Network — sees its first two episodes debuting on the service today, marks the streaming titan’s first foray into documentary series podcasting, telling the music entrepreneur’s bootstrap rise from Bronx kid to manager of iconic hip-hop artists (Diddy, Missy Elliott, Busta Rhymes) to his unexpected suicide in 2012 at just 44 years old. It’s a markedly comprehensive undertaking hosted by Reggie Osse (of the popular Combat Jack podcast) that features Lighty’s mother and sister as well as musicians like Fat Joe, N.O.R.E. and Warren G speaking on his life and impact on the hip-hop community and beyond.

In the first episode, “Mogul” takes listeners back to the dawn of the hip-hop revolution in 1970s New York, where Lighty was raised in the Bronx River Housing Projects. Hip-hop was becoming a culture right outside of his window, and he spent his free time carrying crates for pioneering DJ Red Alert and trying to get into clubs for free with his coterie of friends. It was the latter action for which the crew became known as “violators”— the term that would recur throughout his career and what would inspire the name for his management and marketing company, Violator Entertainment.

To understand Lighty’s impact is to trace the artists with whom he worked, and how he elevated them from beyond standard hip-hop deals. His hands touched many careers — LL Cool J, Mariah Carey, Q-Tip, Nas and Ja Rule are just a sample of artists under his purview — and his accomplishments are vast. Lighty was the one who orchestrated 50 Cent’s deal with Vitamin Water prior to its sale to Coca-Cola, which earned the rapper an estimated $80-100 million in 2004. He got LL Cool J booked for a Gap commercial in 1997, when hip-hop artists weren’t necessarily considered for the face of international brands, and inked soda deal after soda deal for acts like A Tribe Called Quest and Busta Rhymes. According to the New York Times, his company’s clients sold 80 million records in 2007. Yet in August of 2012, he suddenly committed suicide in the midst of a pending divorce from his wife of seven years, as well as an outstanding debt to the IRS of $5 million.

For Osse, it’s important that Lighty’s story is told because his presence is so strongly felt today. “I look at Chris’ influence in what Jay Z is doing, someone who’s so multifaceted,” he said. “We found out that Chris was really looking at getting into sports and looking at brands that were really beyond the beverage or the alcohol or apparel. It’s obvious that Chris was definitely an influence on Jay Z — and even [Diddy], who was managed and influenced by Lighty at a certain juncture in his career. If you look at the Diddys and Jay Zs and even Dr. Dres, becoming arguably ‘hip-hop’s first billionaire,’ all of those are evidence of blueprints laid down by Chris.”

Pivoting into original podcasting felt like a natural turn after hosting licensed podcasts on the service for years, said Tom Calderone, Spotify’s global head of content partnerships. “People love listening to podcasts,” he said. “What we felt is important is that Spotify has its imprint and footprint in original storytelling, particularly when it came to music. We thought it was perfect for a start in that model. Because of some of the subsets we’ve seen on the licensed podcasts, having an expression of original was really important to the Spotify studios.”

Spotify has found success across genres — its “electroNOW” playlist has 4.1 million subscribers — but none more so than with hip-hop. “RapCaviar,” a taste-making playlist that has 6.2 million followers, was one of the reasons that the company decided to focus its energies in producing a podcast about Lighty’s life. “Hip-hop is a really important voice to Spotify,” continued Calderone. “Having said that, I think one thing we thought was missing is the fact that a story like Chris’ [life] is definitely an important one for the history of hip-hop, but also the human element of it and the pain and the struggles that he went through. It’s a real hip-hop story that a lot of people don’t talk about. Also, knowing that audio is truly the intent of our users, that this would just complement everything about Spotify when doing an audio documentary like ‘Mogul.’”

Lighty’s series comes on the heels of two original podcasts previously released in the wake of its announcement with Gimlet in February. The first, “Showstopper,” focused on music’s impact on television, while the second, “Unpacked,” followed music supervisor Matt FX and Spotify Studios’ Michele Santucci through their journey to different U.S. music festivals. Calderone added that “Mogul,” the third in the partnership, is just the beginning.

“The list is very long of all these great stories we can tell on the audio side,” he said. “But we want to make sure we learn from this and make sure at the end of the day, the people who use our service not only enjoy and understand it, but start asking for more. Once the audience demand is there, we’re going to follow it.”

More Biz

  • Pamela Anderson

    Pamela Anderson Fears Julian Assange 'Won't Survive' Extradition to U.S.

    After previously speaking out in support of her friend and WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, Pamela Anderson doesn’t think he would survive an extradition from the U.K. to the U.S. “I hope he gets out of there, but I don’t think he’ll survive extradition. It can’t happen. It’s not even an option. We can’t have him [...]

  • Jane Austin SAG AFTRA

    SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer Jane Austin Running for President

    Jane Austin, the National Secretary-Treasurer of SAG-AFTRA, has become the third candidate for the presidency of the performers union, joining incumbent Gabrielle Carteris and Matthew Modine. Austin is running as an independent for the top post at SAG-AFTRA, which has 160,000 members. Carteris will seek re-election as the head of the ticket for the Unite [...]

  • Endeavor

    Endeavor Group Holdings Files for Initial Public Offering

    Endeavor Group Holdings, the parent company of talent agency WME, has filed to go public with a Form S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company plans to list on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “EDR.” The number of shares to be offered and the price range have not yet been [...]

  • Lisbeth R Barron Investment Banker

    Investment Banker Lisbeth R. Barron on How She Became a Broadway Deal Specialist

    If you want to get a deal done on Broadway, call Lisbeth R. Barron. Barron is a veteran investment banker who launched her own shingle, Barron Intl. Group, in 2015. She has brokered a slew of deals throughout her career — which has included stops at S.G. Warburg and Bear Stearns — involving companies and [...]

  • The Prom Broadway

    'The Prom': How the Little Show That Could Found Its Way to the Tonys Dance

    Does a Broadway musical still count as an underdog if it’s got über-producer Ryan Murphy in its corner? It does if it’s “The Prom,” the labor of love from a team of Broadway veterans that’s carving out a place for itself as an original story on a street full of familiar titles and well-known brands. [...]

  • Mario Batali

    Mario Batali Charged With Assault and Battery in 2017 Groping Allegation

    On Friday, Mario Batali will be arraigned in a Boston courthouse regarding an indecent assault and battery charge after a woman accused the restaurateur of groping and kissing her in 2017, according to the New York Times. Several women have also accused Batali of sexual harassment. Batali has continuously denied the claims of sexual assault. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content