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Rest In Power, Big L

18 years ago today, Lamont “Big L” Coleman passed away, the victim of a shooting that remains unresolved today in 2017. In tracing the lineage of the intersection of vivid storytelling and sharp, marksman-like lyricism–the very lineage on which superstars like Jay Z, Nas, Biggie, and more built their careers–it’s impossible to have the conversation without mentioning Big L, a street warrior that was on the cusp of realizing the potential of his artistry before his untimely death.

Regarding that artistry, today we take a look back at L’s Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, Big L’s debut album, released on Columbia Records. Back in 2010, Lord Finesse, L’s best friend and collaborator, discussed the making of Lifestylez with HipHopDX in a comprehensive conversation that broke down most of the tracks on the album, its inspiration, its origin, and how L contended with the creative control and influence that Columbia asserted on the project. On “Da Graveyard,” the famed posse cut that featured Jay Z, Finesse, Microphone Nut, Party Arty and Grand Daddy I.U., Finesse, who produced 5 of the album’s 12 tracks, had this reflection.

People don’t know [Jay-Z and Big L] actually battled each other in Harlem. And I wish somebody videotaped that, because that woulda been a classic to this day. I think battling each other they got admiration for one another, and that’s where – ‘Cause I can tell you L was a Jay-Z fan, just like Jay-Z was a L fan. [L] was [also] a DMX fan. He loved DMX… And I think [after] that battle [between Jay and Big L], [Big L] was like, yo, I wanna put Hov on [a song]. And we’re not talking about the Reasonable Doubt Hov, we’re talking about the Hov fresh off the “Can I Get Open” [single from] Original Flavor [in 1993]. That’s the Hov we’re talking about. And we thought he was slick with the pen, but it wasn’t until later that we could truly honestly appreciate the Hov we know as of now… Jay was running around battling people [back then], and somebody set them up to battle each other and…I really know [Jay-Z] didn’t know what he was getting into battling this dude. I don’t [remember the exact date of their battle], I just remember L telling me about it. He was sitting on the stoop getting his hair braided, and [according to L] they set up this battle and he went to battle this dude. [Big L] was also there when Jay-Z battled DMX. L was heavy into the battling thing.

It’s worth mentioning that the equally famed appearance of Big L and Jay Z on Stretch and Bobbito’s show on WKCR in 1995 was an indirect offspring of this almost mythical battle. You can check that out here, and read Finesse’s full reflection here.

Rest in power, Big L.

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