Big L :: The Big Picture
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
We're too familiar with this scenario - we've BEEN too
familiar with it for more than a minute now. Since back in the
day we've lost talented artists like Cowboy and Scott LaRock
to seemingly random violence. It's not random though - people
die in the hood every day, and more than most of them are not
well-known rap artists. When you remember Lamont Coleman,
remember him first as his mother's son, his main man's homeboy,
and a future unborn seed's father. L was blessed with a gift
and was cut down before his time; but that gift wasn't just
his rap - it was his life itself.
L paid dues like Donald Trump pays taxes. For years his cameo
raps blazed up tracks like Showbiz and A.G.'s "Represent" and
Lord Finesse's "Yes You May (Remix)". Parlaying this work into
a record deal, Big L recorded and released "Lifestylez Ov Da Poor
& Dangerous" through Sony/Columbia.. and promptly went aluminum.
You could blame any number of factors: lack of promotion, an
uninspiring lead single, not enough connections in the biz.
If you aren't familiar with L though, stop reading this review
and go to the record store to cop his first LP - it's MAD nice.
Far from folding up his tent and packing up the mess kit, L went
back to the lab and redoubled his efforts. Between solidifying
his already tight connections with the Diggin' In The Crates
family and launching his own Flamboyant Entertainment label,
Lamont was ready to blow. His newest twelve inch "Ebonics (Street
Slang)" was the hottest shit on mix tapes and college radio and
he had a whole album full of hot joints planned - then disaster struck.
If you heard Notorious B.I.G.'s post-humous "Born Again" album
you probably realize how hard Bad Boy tried to splice together unfinished
material into full songs and pull acapellas from his guest appearances
with other artists. Paired together with a couple of gems from the
vault that were actually complete, it ALMOST comprised a real
album - but Big L's final album fares a little bit better.
Other than snatching up "The Enemy", his duet with Fat Joe on
D.I.T.C.'s self-titled release, this is the straight-up raw.
If any of these cuts are spliced together, it's hella hard to tell.
Take mixtape master Ron G's "Deadly Combination" featuring
Tupac Shakur - like any tape king he
records "exclusives" to pump up interest in his latest release.
It's possible they could have pieced this together - Shakur
never mentions L by name or vice versa, but he DOES give
Ron a shoutout as "the only DJ who can calm me." Since the vocals
are obviously authentic let's put it this way: if you can't tell
the difference, does it matter? The beat slams, the raps rip.
'Nuff the fuck said.
Besides the obvious inclusion of pre-album singles and their b-sides
(at least four songs you may have heard, if you're a fan of L) there's
plenty of new material to be happy with. Pete Rock blesses L with
a bouncy, uptempo beat on "Holdin' it Down" while guests A.G., Miss Jones
and Stan Spiteach contribute nice vocals. Kool G. Rap is all over the
brutally beautiful "Fall Back" with his trademark rapidfire bravado.
The lead single "Flamboyant" has
a Mike Heron beat to which the words beautiful and excellent
don't even begin to do justice. As if that wasn't enough, it's
immediately followed by L's three-minute long opus "Casualties of a Dice Game."
If you can't rank Big L among hip-hop's greatest storytellers
after hearing this song, you WEREN'T paying attention.
Peep a short selection of the lyrics:
I'm waitin for my nigga to come out of the spot
I see niggaz startin to plot, and I'm far from my block
Finally he walked out, told him, "Hop the fuck in"
On my face he saw the grin and said, "How much did you win?"
I estimated about, 45 maybe 50 G's
My man was hungry so I dropped him off at Mickey D's
Now I'm alone, headin home to rest my dome
Spotted some niggaz trailin so I picked up the phone
Called Bones, I said, "Yo son, I'm on the run
Need your help before I get done
Meet me downstairs, bring your big gun"
The illymostdefness ALMOST doesn't let up on this album's
second half. DJ Premier blesses a double-threat of Big-ness
on "Platinum Plus" in the form of Big L and Big Daddy Kane; then Pete
Rock comes right back for L's "Who You Slidin' Wit'" which
also features Stan Spit. Surprisingly, "Games" featuring
Sadat X and Guru seems to be the album's most lackluster moment.
L sounds uninspired by his own rap about chickenheads, and
Ysae's beat adds nothing to the mix nor do the guest rappers.
Lord Finesse puts a nice spin on the "The Heist (Revisisted)"
though, and D.I.T.C. comes together on the album's finale
for "The Triboro" - even adding rapstress Remi Martin in
the mix for the chorus and a verse.
Don't assume this album walks away leaving L a perfect finale.
Only on a post-humous album would you get away with including
something like the "'98 Freestyle" as a song - this one is
included for historical purposes; even those he spits it nicely.
The problem is that there was far more history to be mined:
the already released "Day One '99" live in Amsterdam is nice;
and the twelve inch tracks "We Got This" and "On the Mic" are
surprisingly absent - especially given the fat beats and
scratches by Roc Raida on the latter. L fans are going to
view this album as 10 new songs, 4 already available
tracks, 1 intro and 1 freestyle. Those who don't know L
will view it as 14 or 15 songs and an intro. ANYBODY who
listens will agree on this one thing - L was ILL.
A smooth voice, easy-going flow, and penchant for nasty
punchlines put him in the upper echelons of New York's
best rappers - and like L himself these songs will not
soon be forgotten.
Music Vibes: 8 of 10
Lyric Vibes: 8 of 10
TOTAL Vibes: 8 of 10
Originally posted: August 7, 2000