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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.