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Swizz Beatz: The Monster

By: Mic Cool

Born in the Bronx NY, the place that birthed hip hop, Kasseem “Swizz Beatz” Dean would help shape the east coast landscape as a mega producer. After getting the equipment he needed he started to DJ and garnered success. After relocating to Atlanta Georgia due to violent behavior, he began to work for his uncles Joaquin and Darrin Dean who just happened to be co CEOs of the Ruff Ryders record label. In his early work he chose not to sample but rather accentuate the performance aspect of his music. With his uncles and aunt heavily involved with Ruff Ryders, he began to produce tracks at the age 16. A year later he made his first collaboration with DMX witch just happen to be the chart topping “Ruff Ryders Anthem”. Swizzy did a lot of production on X’s first two albums It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and Flesh of my Flesh Blood of my Blood.

Following those accomplishments he produced other major hip hop songs “Banned From TV” from N.O.R.E. And Jay-Z’s “Money Cash Hoes”. He then produced most of the songs on the Ruff Ryders compilation “Ryde or Die Vol. 1” as well as the bulk of Eve’s debut who was the Ruff Ryders First Lady. Now in a joint venture with Clive Davis, Swizz established his own label “Full Surface Records” a part of J Records. The first artist signed was Philadelphia based rapper Cassidy who’s underground following was becoming a big deal off of his battle raps and the ability to become a larger artist with the right backing. Swizz put out his first Lp Ghetto Stories in 2002 getting noticed not only for his beats but now actually rhyming on the first single “Guilty” featuring a reggae artist Bounty Hunter. His second single featuring Cassidy, “Bigger Business” also reached the billboard charts.

Along with him associating himself with Ruff Ryders he also began churning out hits with labels like Elektra, Atlantic, Def Jam, and Bad Boy Ent. By 2003 his artist Cassidy had a massive song featuring R Kelly, “Hotel” and it blew up. He worked with the Problem for a while producing some of his biggest songs and when Cassidy was in a accident he waited until his boy came out of his coma and also beat a murder case, then they did “My Drink N My 2 Step” bringing back their dominance. After he and Cass parted ways, Swizz released his second LP One Man Band led by the singles “It’s Me Bitches”, “Money in the Bank” and “Top Down” which reinvigorated his sound and put him back in the charts. In that time period he married R&B songstress Alicia Keys and signed legendary group Bone Thugs N Harmony. His first Grammy award came in the form of “On To The Next One” by Jay-Z.

Let’s face it he reinvented The LOX after Puff Daddy made them wear shiny suits, he created a backdrop for DMX, he basically help shape The Ruff Ryders sound. Currently he sits as VP of sports, style, marketing, design, and brand music development for global footwear at Reebok. He is still trying to revive DMX’s career while working with a whole new crop of artists, and Swizz is still makes those beats. What his bread and butter has been and always will be.

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Big L: The Greatest Rapper We Barely Knew

Lamont Coleman aka “Big L”
May 30, 1974 – February 15, 199
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!