DMX Punching Chris Lighty Drew Blood Money From His Album (Audio)
This spring, the life and death of acclaimed record executive Chris Lighty has been the subject of an investigative podcast series. Combat Jack has created and hosted Mogul, a weekly look at the evolution of the man who managed A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, 50 Cent, Fat Joe, Warren G, Diamond D, N.O.R.E., Cormega, and others. Lighty, a Bronx, New Yorker who formed Violator (first a Rap crew, then a management firm, and eventually a label), died in 2012.
Combat (aka Reggie Ossé), a veteran entertainment lawyer and Def Jam employee, ran in the same circles as Lighty. Thus far in the series, he’s spoken to Lighty’s mentor DJ Red Alert, Joe, Warren, Russell Simmons, D-Nice, Noreaga, and others.
After taking a week off from new episodes (Mogul did release an a la carte Fat Joe segment), episode 4 “Gucci Boots” is wildly entertaining. The episode looks at Lighty’s tumultuous relationship with widow Veronica, his lavish wedding, and his exit from Def Jam into his own full-fledged firm. However, the ep’ begins with a wild story surrounding Def Jam’s superstar DMX as Lighty was leaving his executive post at the label.
Sometime following the 1998 #1 debut It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot, the label held a marketing meeting. “The DMX situation was really my fault. That’s the craziest shit,” begins Dave Lighty, Chris’ brother, who was part of Violator and Def Jam at the time. “[People at the label asked me what I thought of DMX’s new album]. I was like, ‘Ehhhh, he got hotter joints on his mixtape.’ [That’s only my opinion], but I like [the album]. And I guess they thought that was a diss; somebody in the room thought I was trying to diss, and ran back and told DMX.”
Eric Nicks, who would become Violator’s VP of A&R remembers a different story that reached X. “DMX had a complex about being called ‘a crackhead.’ He had a serious complex, back then, about being called a drug addict…DMX got wind of what was said and all he heard was ‘Lighty’,” Nicks says, referring to the fact that the Ruff Ryders MC not only heard criticism of the album, the “crackhead” term came with it.
Combat narrates, “Whatever version [of the story] you believe, DMX was pissed. And DMX is not the kind of cat to take a diss and let it go. This is a guy who’s got a rap sheet almost as long as his set-list. So DMX is like, ‘Fuck this! I’ma fuck Lighty up.’ The problem was, he was after the wrong Lighty. He thought it was Chris Lighty who talked shit about him.” Dave continues, “Chris was in the [Def Jam Records] office one day, and DMX was in the office.” Nicks takes over, “DMX had seen Chris, and was like ‘Yo!'” Dave’s account overlaps, “Chris turned around and DMX sneak-punched Chris.” “Boom!” Nicks picks up. “He punched him in the face. [He] knocked his tooth out–clean out. Right? All hell broke loose!”
Unlike the common caricatures of record executives in Rap, Chris Lighty was no punk. He had backed down Suge Knight earlier in the decade (episode 3), and cemented a rep in the ’80s fighting in The Latin Quarter with his Violators crew (episode 2).
Combat continues, “Chris was furious. And he wanted to fuck DMX up. So he rallied up a group of his friends, the old Violator crew, and they went looking for X, so they could handle this thing like they would have done back in the Bronx. The problem was…things were different now.” Lighty presumably had a job with serious income, and DMX was Hip-Hop’s biggest star in 1998, along with Snoop Dogg, Master P, Lauryn Hill, Method Man, and the Beastie Boys. “Lyor Cohen came up with an idea for how to settle things–one that would appease Chris Lighty and keep DMX from getting hurt.” Lyor was then co-President. X was his flagship artist, and he would be Lighty’s best-man in his wedding (as is later documented in the episode). “DMX would give Chris a cut of the royalties from his next album, and in return, Chris would not come after him.”
“At first he was [saying] ‘We’re gonna tear his wig off.’ Oh, it was goin’ down!” says Dave Lighty. “And then, after the conversation, it was, ‘Aight, we gonna do some business shit.'” “He got a big check,” Nicks says. Neither he nor Dave will disclose how much Chris Lighty earned from X’s second 1998 album, Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood. However, that album, also a #1 debut, would stay there for three weeks, and go triple-platinum.
Dave Lighty, who seemingly caused the incident calls it, “The worst punch DMX could’ve thrown in his life,” with a hearty laugh. “It cost him a check.”
Less than one month ago, DMX reportedly entered a rehabilitation facility after canceling multiple shows.
#BonusBeat: On the subject of ’90s DMX, It’s Dark… turns 19 years old today:
This album sold more than 250,000 copies its first week on shelves.