Hip Hop History: Remembering Rapper Big L

by Raheem Karim
Big L

If you don’t know who Big L is, than you don’t know your history of hip hop. Rapper Lamont Coleman aka Big L life was cut short on this day 18 years ago in his native Harlem by a so called friend. Today is the day we celebrate his contribution to hip hop as a verbal assassin and word smith. He is famously known for the 7 minute freestyle between him and Jay Z in 1995. “Ebonics” is considered one of the best metaphoric songs of all time.

Big L first appearance came on “Yes You May (Remix)”, the B-side of “Party Over Here” (1992) by Lord Finesse, and his first album appearance was on “Represent” off of Showbiz & A.G.’s Runaway Slave (1992). L joined rap loyalty Lord Finesse’s Bronx-based hip hop collective Diggin’ in the Crates Crew (DITC) which consisted of Lord Finesse, Diamond D, O.C., Fat Joe, Buckwild, Showbiz, and A.G.

In 1995 he released his debut underground classic album Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous with singles “Put It On” and “M.V.P.”

Big L’s second LP The Big Picture, was released posthumous in August 1, 2000 and featured Fat Joe, Guru of Gang Starr, Kool G Rap, and Big Daddy Kane among others. The song was based on “Ebonics”, and The Source called it one of the top five independent singles of the year.

If you listen to Big L’s work you can tell L had a major influence on rappers in the 90’s. This guy could kill a freestyle with his metaphors. He has drawn praise from other major artist. In 2004, Eminem made a tribute to him in his music video for his single, Like Toy Soldiers. Jay Z had stated in an interview with MTV, “We were about to sign him right before he passed away. We were about to sign him to Roc-a-Fella. It was a done deal…I think he was very talented…I think he had the ability to write big, and big choruses.” Rapper Nas also said on MTV, “He scared me to death. When I heard that on tape, I was scared to death. I said, ’Yo, it’s no way I can compete if this is what I gotta compete with.’

It is no doubt L was on the best battle rappers to touch the mic. He was one of the first rappers to put Harlem on the map.

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