On Wax Special: Remembering Big L
On February 15th, 1999, Lamont Coleman — who was professionally known as Big L — tragically died in a drive by shooting. Twenty years after his passing, Big L's Legacy is still remembered and celebrated today.
Big L was more than just an MC. Big L was a pioneer, and one of the greatest New York hip-hop artists of the ‘90s. A top tier lyricist who not only laid the foundation for Horrorcore, but also inspired generations to come. From his peers like Jay-Z and Cam’ron, to the new school of A$AP Rocky and Mac Miller (RIP), Big L was (and still is) the essence of hip-hop.
“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.”
– Nas on Funkmaster Flex 2006
Big L’s contributions to New York hip-hop were magical. To make Nas, who is one of the greatest ever, scared is a task nearly impossible. Big L was a battle rapper at heart, and there wasn’t anyone who could come close to Big L’s punchlines and multisyllable rhymes. A personal favorite is Big L vs. Jay-Z on Stretch and Bobbito. (Jay-Z at the time was just known as a protégé of Jaz-O.) The rap battle is infamous in New York radio history, as Stretch and Bobbito had many legendary nights, but nothing was quite like this one.
Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous is a debut album like no other. While his song titled “Devil’s Son” might be one of his most famous songs that infamously inspired the Horrorcore rap genre, the album in general is a quintessential hip-hop album. It is pure lyricism, alongside production from New York legends, Lord Finesse, Buckwild and Showbiz that created a monstrous project. The album even features Cam’ron (his first ever On Wax appearance when he was going as Killa Cam).
Unfortunately, Big L never got to complete his second album, The Big Picture. However, his manager and friend, Rich King, finished the album posthumously. The album features a lot of original material Big L recorded for the album, alongside older recordings and freestyles from the vault. The album features an infamous verse from 2pac who originally was to be featured on DJ Ron G’s mixtape, as he recorded the song on November 30th, 1994. That was the night 2pac was shot and robbed, sparking the East vs. West Coast beef. The album features tracks like “Ebonics,” “The Enemy,” and “The Heist.” The album also features New York rappers Kool G Rap, Fat Joe, Big Daddy Kane and Remy Ma. Production came from the likes of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Lord Finesse, and others.
While other projects came after, those are the two we treasure the most, as Big L played a part in those two, and they are both legendary in their own rights.
As the years passed, Big L continues to inspire. There’s no denying his influence still rings through New York as Joey Bada$$ and the entire Pro Era crew take influence from him still. Big L has even reached and inspired artists from all over the globe. Recently, in a Vice interview with Chinese rapper MaSiWei, who is from 88rising rap group called Higher Brothers, shouted out Big L:
“Big L is one of my favorite rappers. I used to just like making beats. Later Big L inspired me a lot on flow and lyrics. Then I started to research Big L’s lyrics. I couldn’t understand English at the time so I would look at the Chinese translation of the English lyrics. I learned the way they wrote lyrics. I really like the lyrics on his second song “M.V.P,” and one of my goals was to get a tattoo of the lyrics on my arm.” — MaSiWei
From New York to China, Big L changed rap history. While it’s sad he’s not with us today, we will remember his legacy forever through his music.
RIP Big L