By Mic Cool
This is the story of Lamont Coleman better known to hip hop heads as “Big L”. Born in Harlem, New York in 1974, his father left when he was a child. At the tender age of 12, “Little L” as he was then known, started free-styling against people in his neighborhood. Then he founded a group “3 The Hard Way” which he quickly disbanded. By the summer of 1990 he had changed his name to “Big L” to impress one of his female friends and would go on to meet Lord Finesse at an autograph session. The 16 year old L kicked a rhyme and they exchanged numbers. All Coleman wanted to originally do was battle wether on a street corner, in the hallways, beating on a wall, or simply chilling with his friends at a house party.
In ‘91 he recorded various demos while forming another click “Children of the Corn” consisting of Harlem rappers Bloodshed, McGruff, a young Ma$e(then Murda Mase), and Cam’ron (then Killa Cam). In 1991 Lord Finesse takes Big L under his wing as he promotes his upcoming album, leading to Big L’s first television appearance on YO! MTV Raps. Next in 1992 he won an amateur freestyle battle where he beat out 2,000 contestants to be crowned champion. Big L was vicious with the battles. This is how he earned money, battling anyone who wanted to test his lyrical prowess.
He signs his first deal to Columbia Records and joined DJ Finesses “Digging in The Crates Crew”, consisting of; Diamond D, O.C., Fat Joe, Buckwild, Showbiz, and AG. All of which are New York natives, although he was the lone representative from Harlem. In 1993 he penned the first so called horror core single “Devils Son”. He said he wrote the song because he was a fan of horror flicks plus the things he had seen in his neighborhood were truly scary. By 1995 he drops his debut LP Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous which spawned the singles “ Put it On”, “MVP”, and “No Endz, No Skinz”. The album is a critical success but has trouble selling units.
Come 1996 he was then released from Columbia over creative differences. While working on his sophomore album The Big Picture, one of his boys Bloodshed from “COTC” died in a car accident. In 1998 he formed his own independent label “Flamboyant Ent” which was planned to distribute the kind of hip hop that sold without top 40 samples or r&b hooks. Next he put out his biggest single “Ebonics” using lingo or slang the African American community invented. At this time he caught the eye of Dame Dash the CEO of one of the biggest rap labels Roc-A-Fella Records, and a childhood friend from his Harlem days. At this time Dame Dash and Jay-Z were trying to sign Big L to Roc-A-Fella but were caught up on minor disagreements that they working out.
What happened on the cusp of this huge deal would be devastating. On February 15th, 1999 Big L was killed. He was shot 9 times to the body and face during a drive by shooting. Since his death he’s been regarded as one of the most auspicious story tellers in hip hop history, and one of the most under rated lyricist ever notable for using a rhyme style called “compounding”. He was a master of the punchline. With raps deadlier than a snakebite, yet cooler than a uptown pimp, he is larger than life.
Big L lives on!