Big L (Lamont Coleman)
b. Harlem, New York, 1974-1999
1993: 'Devil's Son' Single.1994: 'Clinic' Single.1995: Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous.2000: DITC's Worldwide.2000: The Big Picture. 2000: Live From Amsterdam.2003: Harlem's Finest: A Freestyle History. 2003: Children of the Corn's Collector's Edition. 2006: The Archives 1996-2000 (Ltd. Edition CD Release).
Big L exemplifies the gritty, punchline heavy battle raps mastered by his mentor, Lord Finesse. The recent trend of New York rappers aiming to “Bring New York Back” (in particular Papoose) with flurries of mixtapes and freestyles, seem to follow in the blueprint that Big L left. Big L is the logical progression of Lord Finesse’s style into the early and late Nineties. As a part of the legendary D.I.T.C. crew, Big L seemed poised to conquer mainstream rap, as rumors of Roc-a-fella signings whirled about before his tragic murder in 1999.
Legend has it that L met Lord Finesse in a record store in Harlem, and Finesse was so impressed by his freestyle abilities that he landed his first appearance on wax on Lord Finesse’s 'Yes, You May Remix'. He also appears on Showbiz and A.G.’s classic LP Runaway Slave on the posse cut 'Represent'.
His first album, Lifestyles Ov Tha Poor and Dangerous was a slept-on glimpse into the talent that Harlem had bubbling in the early nineties. Not only was it a great album for L to showcase his rhyming skills, it also featured a pre-Reasonable Doubt Jay-Z (spitting his Fu-Schnikens flow) a pre-Bad Boy Mase, and the first appearance of Cam’ron on wax. One wonders if Big L would be dipsetting up in Harlem if he had not been tragically murdered.
The main components of Big L’s style were a straight forward matter of factness, an attention to detail and word syllable breakdowns, and a humor that was rough yet hilarious. He might also be the father of the short-lived “Horrorcore” style, with his 12” 'Devil’s Son' and various rhymes about raping Jesus Christ and beating his mother up like Norman Bates. He usually rhymed with a similar pattern on each song, he would rhyme multi-syllable phrases for three or six lines, with a very potent set up right before he delivered the punchline. Memorable punchlines: “They want to know why/I’m so fly/My girl asked me for a ring so I put one around her whole eye”, “I’m a street genius/with a unique penis/got fly chicks on my dick that don’t even speak English”,“You’ve been rapping for years pal/and ain’t made a hit yet/you flopped in a split sec/in the shower’s the only time you get your dick wet”.
He also had a great ability to write concept songs and tell stories. 'Ebonics' is the handbook for rap listeners who are new to rap slang, and 'Casualties of a Dice Game' reads like a grimy, fast paced movie scenario. On an early Stretch and Bobbito appearance, Big L found himself trading verses with an early Jay-Z, and it is one of the few instances where someone manages to outshine Jay. In my opinion, had Big L been allowed to live and prosper, he would have eventually given Jay or Nas a run for their money as the official “King Of New York” title. D.I.T.C. released a long awaited album in 2000, but the death of Big L can be felt in what seems like a movement that lost momentum. The songs 'Dignified Soilders' and 'Tribute' address the loss of a microphone champion who died to soon to fully blossom.
Songs You Should Have On Your IPod:
'Represent' off Showbiz & A.G.'s Runaway Slave
'Devil's Son' off Devil's Son 12"
'MVP' off Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous
'No Endz, No Skinz' off Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous
'Da Graveyard' off Lifestyles ov da Poor & Dangerous
'Ebonics' off The Big Picture
'Fall Back' off The Big Picture
'Platinum Plus' off The Big Picture
'Day One' off DITC's Worldwide
'Big L Tribute' off DITC's Worldwide
Posted by Brandon but written by Kevin Earley...