Big L, Book of Rhymes, Vol. 2
Originally published in the March 2003 issue of XXL
Eleven years ago today hip-hop lost a legend when Lamont “Big L” Coleman fell victim to an assassin’s bullet outside his Harlem home on February 15, 1999. Most know L’s name, but not everyone knows his legacy.
As the youngest DITC member and the only Harlemite, Big L had partnered with Killa Cam, Murda Ma$e and Bloodshed in the storied early-’90s rap troupe, The Children of the Corn, and earned a solo deal with Columbia Records when he was just 17. Though he was dropped after his debut album, 1995’s Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, sold disappointingly, he continued his solo career through his own independent label, Flamboyant, and never lost his confident sense of humor. “How come you can listen to my first album/And tell where a lot of niggas got they whole style from?” he bragged in a radio freestyle that would appear on his gold, posthumously released second album, The Big Picture. At the time of his death, he was reportedly planning to sign with Roc-A-Fella Records.
Since his death, the contributions L made to the art of MCing have begun to be fully recognized. On the anniversary of his passing, XXL asked some of the people he made music with to choose a favorite verse and analyze, line for line, the skills of a lyricist who looms even larger now than he did when he were alive. —Adam Matthews
Former Rawkus Records A&R Mike Heron, who produced most of Big L’s album, The Big Picture, chose this verse from “98 Freestyle” (Recorded live during an appearance on the legendary Stretch and Bobbito radio show) as his favorite
“Yo, fuck all the glamours and glitz, I plan to get rich/I’m from New York and never was a fan of the Knicks/And I’m all about expandin’ my chips/You mad ’cause I was in the van with your bitch/With both hands on her tits/Corleone hold the throne, that you know in your heart/I got style, plus the way that I be flowin’ is sharp/A while back I used to hustle, sellin’ blow in the park/Countin’ G stacks and rockin’ ice that glow in the dark/Forever hottie-huntin’, trigger temper I’m quick to body somethin’/You lookin’ at me like I’m probably frontin’/I fuck around and throw, three in your chest and flee to my rest/I’m older and smarter this is me at my best/I stopped hangin’ around y’all, ’cause niggas like you/Be prayin’ on my downfall, hopin’ I flop/Hopin’ I stop, you probably even hope I get locked/Or be on the street corner with a pipe, smokin’ the rock/I got more riches than you, fuck more bitches than you/Only thing I haven’t got is more stitches than you/Fuckin’ punk, you ain’t a leader/Nobody ever followed you/You was never shit, your mother shoulda swallowed you/You on some tagalong flunkie yes-man shit/Do me a favor, please get off the next man dick/And if you think I can’t fuck with whoever, put your money up/Put your jewels up—no fuck it, put your honey up/Put your raggedy house up nigga, or shut your mouth up/Before I buck lead, and make a lot of blood shed/Turn your tux red, I’m far from broke, got enough bread/And mad hoes, ask Beavis I get nothing but head/My game is vicious and cool/Fuckin’ chicks is a rule/If my girl think I’m loyal then that bitch is a fool/How come you can listen to my first album/And tell where a lot of niggas got they whole style from?”
XXLMag.com: “Yo, fuck all the glamours and glitz...”
Mike Heron: And Jay-Z was sitting right next to him. He brought him up there. I think Jay-Z rhymes right after him. But this is who I am talking about, a nigga who ran with the kings. He was signed to Columbia when Nas was signed. He was royalty.