When I first started listening to podcasts my rotation was small. It consisted of The Sound of Young Ameria (now Bullseye), Fresh Air, Radiolab, Science Friday, and This American Life. It was 2004, and it was the brave new world for me. When I bought my 80 gig iPod classic, I intended to listen to music on it. That changed the moment I realized some of my favorite NPR shows were available to listen as well. The moment I subscribed to my first podcast became the moment my obsession began.
Fast-forward to 2017 and it is almost impossible to go to a website that doesn’t have a podcast attached. They are no longer limited to independent sources and public radio personalities. Thanks in part to the phenomenon that was Serial (and all the talk that grew from it), podcasts are now big business.
So with so many options to listen to where do you start? What should you listen to? Well, my friend, you’re in good luck because that’s what I’m here for. In this space, I will recommend a podcast series or single episode that you should check out. Are you ready? Okay, here we go.
Podcast: Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty
Genre: Audio Documentary
How Can I Listen?: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play Music
What’s it about?: In many ways, the story of Chris Lighty is the story of hip-hop. His career in the music industry started with his carrying crates of vinyl records for DJ Red Alert. Later he was hired by Russell Simmons’ Rush Artist Management. While his career was rising he had to make a decision to leave behind behaviors learned as a member of the Violators gang. As Chris became more of a business man he had a tremendous impact on hip-hop being the monster commercial success it became in the late 90’s and 2000’s. One of his greatest moments came when he spearheaded the historic 50 Cent deal with Vitamin Water. To those who knew Chris, he was a success, he was happy, and he was confident. Then on August 20th, 2012 everything came crashing down when Lighty committed suicide.
If you come to Mogul expecting a complete telling of the life and death of Chris Lighty you will be disappointed. With the lack of archival audio from Lighty interviews (he didn’t give many) it left a void that had to be filled otherwise. So instead of being a deep dive into Chris’ story, it became a character sketch. This sketch included anecdotes from Chris’ upbringing, stories of his conflicts with well-known figures in hip-hop, and commentary by people who knew him best. What ties it all together is the narration by Reggie “Combat Jack” Osse who speaks as a contemporary of Lighty’s who is discovering the story the same time as we are.
For some, the highlights might be the bits and pieces of hip-hop history that are shared, but the heart of the podcast is depression and how Lighty struggled in silence. Despite all of his achievements, he faced equally harsh falls and not everyone was as it seemed to those on the outside. It shows how depression isn’t an “affliction for white people,” and that someone could be suffering even though you can’t tell from the outside. It is because of this that many of his friends and family believe he was killed, and that he would never take his own life.
What really made Mogul make an impact on me was that it showed Lighty as a complex character. Where the podcast became more than just okay was when it told the story of Chris’ marriage. It was then it became apparent that Mogul wasn’t going to just be a rosy telling of Chris’ life. It showed that Chris was more than anyone depiction given by the people in his life. He was not a hero, he was a human, he was complex, and he had his virtues and failings.
It is not a perfect podcast, but I found so much that I enjoyed that the negatives did not take away. So if you have any interest in hip-hop or narrative storytelling I’d suggest you check this out.