May 30, 2020

Happy Born Day, Big L! (Playlist)

In Harlem, to know Lamont Coleman was to love him. But to hear "Big L" rhyme was to listen to a living legend. From his days at Julia Richmond High School to his nights rockin' stages from New York to the Netherlands, Big L was a classic cut short long before his time. And when he passed away in February of 1999 at the hands of an assassin's bullet, his legacy seemed destined to have run aground forever. But even in death there is always new life. Having rhymed since the age of 9, Coleman had already made a name for himself in the streets of Uptown. At 16, he regularly contributed rhymes to street corner ciphers and house party sound systems. But his rep was set in stone after meeting with rapper/producer Lord Finesse at Rockin Will, a record store on 125th Street. Finesse had heard L's name in the mouths of many and decided to put him to the test. Coleman responded with the most monumental rhyme of his youth... Seizing the moment Finesse enlisted L as one of the youngest members of the D.I.T.C. crew alongside hip hop veterans Diamond D, Show, and A.G. As part of the crew, L contributed guest verses to songs like Lord Finesse's "Yes You May" remix before signing with Columbia Records in 1992. Three years later he released his solo debut, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous. Released three years after it was recorded in the midst of the Bad Boy revolution the album did poorly. Soon after he was released from Columbia Records. For several months Big L vanished beneath Harlem's surface, taking time to contemplate his next move in the wake of Lifestylez's performance. It was then that he found his future in Flamboyant Entertainment... Soon after L returned to the mic... Songs like "Now or Never," the now-classic "Ebonics," a whirling dervish of words lines and phrases that translated current slang into proper English. Big L was gunned down while visiting the Delano Village projects on West 139th street in Harlem. The music he'd recorded before his passing would become The Big Picture on Rawkus in 2000. His close friend, Alexis "Pucci" George said, "His time was cut short. He was the most underrated artist in the industry." (Rawkus Bio, 2000). Listen to the playlist of tracks below to celebrate Big L; he would have turned 46 today. R.I.P., Big L! The art above is by Chris B. Murray.

"I smash mics like cornbread / You can't kill me, I was born dead"