Big L Remembered: The 10 Best Verses From ‘The Big Picture’
The great Jadakiss once rapped the line “dead rappers get better promotion,” which has grown to be known as one of the most profound phrases in hip-hop history. And as tragic is it may be, it can be applied to deceased rap legend Big L, who was gunned down February 15, 1999 on the very blocks he championed in many of his songs.
Born Lamont Coleman May 30, 1974, he was raised in Harlem, N.Y., where he would begin rap battling in the streets by his early teens before being discovered by Lord Finesse of the Diggin’ In the Crates crew.
Making his debut on Lord Finesse’s “Yes You May (Remix),” Big L quickly made a name for himself via guest appearances, leading Columbia Records to offer him a contract. Releasing “Devil Son,” his first promotional single, the song would become infamous as being one of the first horror-core rap songs on wax. After his second promotional single, “Clinic,” and releasing a radio-edit for “Put It On,” Big L released his debut album, Lifestylez Ov Da Poor and Dangerous in 1995.
The album failed to move a considerable amount of units, but also was lauded as one of the better albums of the year and introduced Big L to rap fanatics in the underground scene. After being dropped by Columbia due to artistic differences, Big L started his own independent label, Flamboyant Entertainment, in 1998 and released the classic single, “Ebonics,” which was rated as one of the biggest indie rap songs of the year. But just when Big L’s career seemed to be taking off, he was was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Harlem.
In an effort to preserve Big L’s legacy, Rich King, his partner at Flamboyant Entertainment, helped complete the Harlem rhymer’s sophomore album, The Big Picture, which he had been recording before his death. Released on August 1, 2000, the album debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling over 72,000 copies in its first week and sold 500,000 units overall. The LP became the late rapper’s most successful release and serves a testament to what could have been had he lived long enough to reach his potential.
Being that it’s the anniversary of L’s senseless murder, peep our list of the 10 Best Verses From Big L’s The Big Picture.
Did your favorite bars make the cut? Find out below.
“Make sure my mic is loud and my production is tight / Better watch me round your girl if you ain’t f—— her right / You damn playa haters never want to see me blow / Flamboyant Entertainment CEO / Yo the spotlight is mine, it ain’t his no more / When Lee come home, n—– can’t live no more / And I’m straight, keep a Harlem World mindstate / I never lounge where you find Jake”
Known for his more rugged stylings, Big L smooths out the flow on the glitzy classic, “Flamboyant.” Produced by Mike Heron, the beat has enough groove to get heads bopping, but when matched with the Harlem rhymer’s ferocity behind the mic, the result is far from saccharine and finds him surprising foes like bling dates and rhyming great all over the track.
“Aiyyo; I heard your single, you better make a whole new song / If they said that s— is hot then they told you wrong / Clown n—–, you ain’t got a chance at all / Big L Corleone too advanced for y’all / I make moves and boss all across the world / So don’t be upset if I toss your girl / I got cheddar to blow, pockets never get low / B—— sweat me wherever I go”
Big L is joined with another rap legend Kool G. Rap and makes sure to rise to the occasion. Batting lead-off, Corleone comes out swinging, spitting his bars with his signature aggression and pummeling the track before G. Rap comes through and proves why he’s one of the most lauded lyricists ever.
“I called back on the cell – it’s Corle’, mad as hell / Told me to listen well as he started to yell / “I just seen Mike and Ben with your wife and a friend / And they just got a room at the Holiday Inn” / “It’s my wife, you sure?” “Damn sure I saw the whore soon as she walked through the door”/ “Say no more, which one?”/ “The one in Jersey son, right over the bridge” / “We goin’ hurt those hoes” “AND hurt both of them kids”
Big L spins a tales of betrayal and lust on the standout track “The Heist.” Produced by Ron Browz, the song is centered around info that the Harlem legend’s wife has been creeping around with another man, leading the D.I.T.C. member to seek maximum retribution for the disrespect. Throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the beat, Big L disregards the need for a hook and displays his ill storytellling skills on the song. When it comes to telling stories on wax, Big L often gets overlooked due to praise for his knack for punchlines.
“Yo, I’m straight loco, to hell with you and your broke ho / You ain’t a big dog, you more like Toto, you got no dough / I smoke ‘dro mixed with cocoa, strong as bolo / I pack a fo’-fo’, platinum ro-ro Anti-homo / That’s a no-no so f— po-po / I push the seven-fo’-oh and not the Volvo / C-Town push the six-oh-oh, I’m with a b—- on dolo / Chips from here to Acapulco”
Known as one of the best pound-for-pound spitters of his era, Big L was put to the ultimate task when pitted against Big Daddy Kane on th song “Platinum Plus.” Going in over a DJ Premier-produced beat, Big L gets edged out by Kane, but manages to shine with a stellar verse of his own that is action-packed and seems to leave you wanting more.
Where I’m from, dudes get sliced, cause crews is trife And you might lose your life for your jewels and ice I’mma slide to the telly and abuse your wife If I got one rubber, I’mma use it twice I give young fools advice about the rules of heist When I rock ‘gators, hoes be like, “Them shoes is nice” Dimes I’m willin to hit, I stay drillin a chick They all know I ain’t s—, but they still on my d—“
“The Triboro” features and impressive lineup of guest spitters, including O.C., Fat Joe and Remy Ma. On the track, Big L refuses to take a loss with a stunning 16-bar verse and holds down the fort. The Harlem rapper hits us with a solid showing and ups the ante with a slew of vicious couplets and proves yet again that he’s a man amongst men when in the booth.
“Fat diamonds is rocks and jakes is cops / And if you got robbed, you got stuck If you got shot, you got bucked / And if you got double-crossed, you got f—– / Your bankroll is your poke, a choke hold is a yoke / A kite is a note, a con is a okey doke / And if you got punched that mean you got snuffed / To clean is to buff, a bull scare is a strong bluff / I know you like the way I’m freaking it / I talk with slang and I’mma never stop speaking it”
Listeners get a dose of slanguistics on the classic track “Ebonics,” which sees Big L interpitating the definition of various slang in the ‘hood lexicon. This is one of Big L’s most definitive songs and his lyrical escapades on the song is still educating newbies to this day.
“Hustlers flip cokey, 48 Hours like Nick Nolte / When I was OT, yo b—- wrote me / First day home I dived in it Left her thighs dented / Now that b—- be pagin’ me every five minutes / Emcees I squash and disgrace / It’s all about the Benjis So why your bills got Washington’s face?”
Big L gets aggressive on the Ron Browz-produced banger “Size Em Up, which sees Corelone talking heavy all over the track. Ironically, he throws props to fellow deceased legends Biggie and Tupac as he adds to his laundry list of godly bars and witty quips.
“Before I buck lead and make a lot of blood shed / Turn your tux red, I’m far from broke, got enough bread / And mad hoes, ask Beavis I get nothing Butthead / My game is vicious and cruel, f— chicks is a rule / If my girl think I’m loyal then that b—- is a fool / How come you can listen to my first album / And tell where a lot of n—– got they whole style from?”
Big L takes it back to the basics on the fan-favorite, “’98 Freestyle.” The song was taken from an appearance on Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia’s legendary rap radio show. On the song, L goes in over Lord Finesse’s classic instrumentals and rips the track to shreds with the ease of a smooth assassin. “’98 Freestyle” is nothing short of a gem in the catalog of Lamont Coleman.
“The iron horse is the train and champagne is bubbly / A deuce is a honey that’s ugly / If your girl is fine, she’s a dime / A suit is a vine, jewelry is shine / If you in love, that mean you blind / Genuine is real, a face card is a hundred dollar bill / A very hard, long stare is a grill / If you sneaking to go see a girl, that mean you creeping / Smiling is cheesing, bleeding is leaking”
The first verse on “Ebonics” may be a tough out, but the final verse on the track takes the cake as the most awe-worthy of the three. Taking advantage of the break in the beat, L goes for broke and keeps the momentum, showcasing a rapid flow and spitting bars with the precision of someone throwing darts, making for an epic closer to a timeless record.
“Me and my man was cruisin through the streets and everything was flowing nice / The corner’s crowded, n—– must be rolling dice / I parked the ride so my nigga Iroc can crash the lye spot / And I’mma gamble until he come back – why not? / Click-clack, cock the gat back, gotta be strapped / The game was mad packed, mad cats pockets was fat / They playin cee-lo, my d— get hard when I see dough / I bets nothin less than a G yo, you know my steelo”
Big L crafts a cautionary tale of how a random dice game can translate into murder and mayhem on “Casualties of a Dice Game.” After coming up big in craps, he’s forced to protect his earnings while embroiled in a shoot-out with a few sore losers. Riveting and cinematic, this epic verse is the best thing smoking on the album and showcases the rapper’s lyrical aptitude.