BIG L – The rise & fall of a rap star
Born in 1974, Big L (real name Lamont Coleman) spent the majority of his life on the 139th Street in Harlem, New York. To Lamont’s own admission, there wasn’t any specific artist that inspired him to become a rapper, but rather it was the Hip Hop culture in general that mesmerized him.
In 1990, Big L joined the group “Three The Hard Way”, which he later abandoned to focus on his solo career. This move helped him cross paths with Lord Finesse (beatmaker for Notorious B.I.G, Noreaga and others), which proved to be one of the most important relationships in his life.
Lord Finesse helped Lamont by inviting him to perform at his concerts and to take part in recording the “Yes you may” track. Later that year he also appeared on Showbiz’s & AG’s “Runaway Slave” album with a song titled “Represent”, which even further increased the hype for Big L’s single releases.
At that time, Big L was already a part of his own rap group Children of the Corn (named after a book by Stephen King). His partners were Cam’Ron, McGruff, Ma$e and Bloodshed. Just as they were about to land a contract, Ma$e and Cam (who came back after a while) left the group and went into basketball, later Bloodshed died in a car crash. Yet even though the group, as a whole, never achieved major success, it proved to be a great launch pad for numerous artists. 2003 marked the release of the “Children of the Corn – Collector’s Edition” album which included a couple of rare tracks.
Between 1993 and 1994, Big L released a demo album consisting of four tracks recorded with Lord Finesse. Big L’s sharp, laconic and hard delivery of his lines struck a chord with a lot of Hip Hop fans, which resulted in his signing with Columbia Records. That was also the time he became the last member of the D.I.T.C. (Digging In The Crates), joining other hip hop icons like Buckwild, Diamond D, Fat Joe, Lord Finesse, O.C., Showbiz and A.G.
In 1993, Big L, along with Columbia Records, released one of the best underground rap tracks “Devil’s Son”, thus introducing the genre of “Horror core” to the world of Hip Hop.
His debut solo album, “Lifestylez Ov da Poor & Dangerous” was released in 1995 – it contained some serious, dope lyrics and hardcore rhythms. The album didn’t achieve commercial success, yet the Source magazine gave it a rating of 4 microphones. It’s also worth noting that one of the best songs of the album, “Da Graveyard”, marked Big L’s collaboration with Jay-Z. After a while, Big L began to have conflicts with the Columbia Records label, so he left.
In the ever-changing world of Hip Hop, Big L managed to stay relevant by performing at various concerts and shows together with the D.I.T.C.
He constantly rapped about violence, which surrounded him in his neighborhood, yet Lamont himself never had any problems with the law. This led to his older brothers jokingly calling him a “TV gangster”.
Big L was incredibly loyal to his family and friends. Later in his life, when Jay-Z invited him to sign a contract with his label Roc-A-Fella, L refused because he didn’t want to leave his homies Scruff and C-Town.
Big L organized his own independent label, Flamboyant Entertainment, where he released a new single – “Ebonics” which is widely considered to be his best work. This song gave a great boost to the artist’s career, yet, tragically, the rapper didn’t get to enjoy his success…
In February 1999, Lamont was found dead near his home, on the same 139th street that made him who he was.
Big L didn’t live to see the success of his second album, “The Big Picture” had that was released after his death. It was produced by DJ Premier, Lord Finesse, Buckwild and others. And, along with Big L himself, the songs were recorded by his D.I.T.C. crew (Fat Joe, O.C., A.G.) and other friends – Sadat X, Kool G Rap, Miss Jones and even 2Pac. In under a month of its release, the album achieved gold status.
Big L’s career serves as a proof that commercial success doesn’t define the true greatness of an MC. He was the embodiment of what Hip Hop is all about and that’s why he is still being listened to all around the world.