Mac Miller Remembers Big L, Shows Off Tribute Tattoo

Today marks the 13th anniversary of the untimely death of Harlem wordsmith Big L. Praised for his wit, delivery, and raw lyrics, among other talents, the rapper born Lamont Coleman was just scratching the surface of his potential when he was gunned down on February 15, 1999. L had a growing fanbase at the time, and his followers have only increased in the years since his passing. Counted among those devoted to his music is Mac Miller, the 20-year-old independent artist with a No. 1 Billboard album under his belt, who was just seven when Big L died. Here, Mac speaks with XXL to reflect on when he first heard L, how he has been influenced by him as an MC, and how he’ll be remembered. —As told to Adam Fleischer (@adamxxl)

I was 15 years old, around 2007, and the stuff on the radio was cool, but I just remember when I heard Big L, it was just so different than everything I was hearing. That interested me, because no one my age that I knew was listening to him. He was my favorite rapper, and at that time it was like, ‘”This is my favorite rapper, and no one else’s that I know. I was doing all this research. He really inspired me to be clever and witty. My early stages of rapping, I was basically trying to be like Big L—trying to be a super raw MC. That’s what he really inspired in me: to always keep that MC factor about myself and about my music.

As a 15-year-old kid, you’re always going through that shit where you’re angry for no reason, and you’re mad at the world. [Big L's debut] Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous was some dark shit. Records like “Da Graveyard” and “All Black”—there are a bunch of dark records on there that caught my attention, that I was listening to and that inspired me. My favorite record off that shit was “Street Struck.” It’s a complete next level shit. I have “Street Struck” tatted on my left arm. Musically, that beat is crazy. And you hear L kicking some knowledge.

I just think that he was such a great MC. He could freestyle on the radio; he could do it all. He was a great storytelling MC. “The Heist,” off The Big Picture?!? He could do that fly shit, like “Flamboyant”—that a super fly record, and what people today would consider swag. And that “The Big Picture (Intro)” is one of the illest shits to me, ever.

I took a trip up to Harlem and went and took a picture of the [L] mural and took a picture of [his infamous block] 139th and Lenox. That’s something I always wanted to do. It’s funny, because Cam’ron saw the pictures and he was like, “What are you doing in Harlem this late at night?!” I was like, “Oh, I’m just chilling.” He was like, “Man, you can’t be chilling around there, I’m sending a car to come pick you up.” And he sent someone to come pick me up and we went over to his crib.

You talk to a hip-hop head and mention Big L, he’ll tell you he’s one of the greats. But I don’t think he gets as much acknowledgement from mainstream, commercial media. It’s hard to say, because there’s a lot, a lot of people who don’t get the acknowledgement from mainstream commercial media. My whole feeling is that L was on the verge of that crossover success—with what he was about to do with Jay-Z and his sound was advancing. Even on The Big Picture, the records are different than they are on Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous. Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous is really grimey, and The Big Picture, he’s on some fly shit on some of the record. They show possibilities of making big records, and at that time, those records could be big. I always felt that, with a little more time, he would have been able to crossover. We’ll never know, but we can just always assume the best, and assume that he would have been at the top of the game right there with Jay. That’s Jay’s big homie, and who knows what would have happened.

L is someone who is always gonna have respect from people, forever. He’s part of hip-hop history forever. Which is good, man. You don’t always have to hit that mainstream success to get the respect that you need. That’s something about hip-hop. Dope music and a dope MC will always get the recognition that they deserve when it’s all said and done. No one’s ever gonna tell you that L’s wack; no one’s ever gonna tell you that he wasn’t gonna pop off, because all signs lead to things positive happening.

Mac Miller’s “Street Struck” Big L tattoo:

  • BeantownReppin

    Not a huge fan of Mac Miller but I do agree with him on Big L…Mac and I are around the same age and growing up I looked at The Big Picture as one of the albums that made me fall in love with hip-hop.

  • C-Ville_Kid

    Imagine If Big L Was Still Alive, If Him And Mac Would Collab On A Track, They Would Be Unstoppable.

    • Bro

      If Big L was still around, Mac Miller would be flipping burgers at McDonalds with 90% of the whack rappers around today

      • OG Matt Herbz

        Thank God we have calmer heads stating the blatantly obvious instead of riding this twerp Mac Miller’s coattails. Mac Miller is wack as fuck. Don’t even come at me with his grassroots come-up either, all rappers used to be kids at one point, don’t know why this cornball is any different. Honestly after the weak puns and pubic hair on his face, the one thing that I hate about dude is his voice. His steelo is mouth-breather and sounds like he snorted a line of bukkake juice in the Tokyo Gentleman’s Club. Can’t wait til this bitch ass moves along and makes mad collabos with that other fag Asher Roth. Those two together would have flunkie rap on lock.

        –OG Matt Herbz–

        • http://suckadickbitch T

          oh so you can rap?

    • Karim

      If Big L was still alive, half the artists today would never exist believe me, Jay would have been a nas of today and Big would have had his own industry and label, he was simply amazing and talented.

    • I agree with them. If Big L was big a lot of these rappers wouldn’t be around because if Big L was big, Herb Mcgruff, C-town, Lord Finesse, and the whole DITC would be also. Or at least much bigger than anyone of them are today because Big L was waiting to get C-Town and Herb McGruff signed (he got them signed but it was too late) and there is no doubt he would put all of them on his Roc-A-Fella/Flamboyant debut because he was always about getting his people to be successful with him.

    • Jacqueline

      Mac Miller is trash and this tribute tattoo is on that foul shit. Disrespectful as fuck.

  • Roman

    Mac got it, L is one of the illest and if not the most underrated.

    The big picture and lifestylez is so god damn real, his voice and the bars who come out of that mutherfucker is like a own era. What bout the one’s on 7 min freestyle with Jay? say no more. RIP L, the world is sparkling one.

  • Roman

    And yeah, IMAGINE if he was still alive.

  • 585standup

    payin homage #respect

  • tanner

    big l would never collab with a dude like mac it just wouldnt happen

  • keator

    ^thank you tanner…. Big L aint fukn with wack ass Mac Miller…. Dude is straight trash

  • Real Heads

    Tanner and Keator apparently know how things would play out in an alternate universe. If an artist shows genuine love and for good reason, like Mac does to Big L, then of course they would’ve collaborated. Big L was ill and one of a kind, he’d dismantle an MC with the simplest rhyme. Mac stays true to the art and I don’t even have Blue Slide Park or Best Day Ever in my iTunes. It’s just obvious

    • It’s hard to say if he would. Rap would most likely be a lot different if he was still around. Just think of the whole Jay-Z-Nas feud and the Cam’ron-Jay-Z one also. Big L would be signed with Jay but he knew Cam’ron way before that and he has a lot of respect for Nas.

      Plus L said himself that he would probably be in the background and not rapping as much. He wanted to produce and he had ideas for a clothing line called Flamboyant.

      Big L recognized real people and those are the people he rapped with. Most rappers back then were a lot different though.

  • keator

    ^LOL mac miller is a by product of the success of kush and OJ, a real MC, GTFOH… Dude was acting on single ladies…

    He is a white rapper that makes music for white girls… Agree with everything about Big L, just tired of these wack ass rappers, acting like Big L would fuck with them.

    Say shit happened with pac back in the day. Pac would never fuck with Ja Rule ever.

    • BangEm

      Truth^^

      Mac Miller is wack, he isn’t talented, his fans are a bunch of 12-15 kids and chicks that think Lil Wayne is the best rapper in the game. LOL

      REST IN PEACE BIG L

  • masshe

    L is someone who is always gonna have respect from people, forever. He’s part of hip-hop history forever. Which is good, man. You don’t always have to hit that mainstream success to get the respect that you need.

    - Could not say it better Mac! :D

  • Big L Rest In Peace

    Ehhh,,Not a MacMiller fan,, Only Mac i fucks wit is Dre & Mall ..But i do have i sliver of respect for the man after reading this aritcle..

    Big L Rest In Peace .. You are forever missed

  • khaleel Abdool

    Mac Miller was never shit his mother should have swallowed him
    RIP BIG L

  • khaleel Abdool

    Mac Miller was never shit his mother should have swallowed him
    RIP BIG L

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  • BigLRIP

    pretty sure if Big L was still alive he’d rather cut his cock off then go to church then ever collaborate on a track with a wanna be ass white boy rapper like Mac Miller. But I mean what do i know.

  • Izzylokan

    so much respect for mac miller, he’s done such a good job at keeping his values as he gets bigger

  • polo

    Big L Rest in Peace!

  • Dean

    Big L is my favorite MC of all time without a doubt, but all these people saying that Mac would of never of collaborated with L … man i dunno, seeing that Mac is doing an album with Cam’ron i don’t see how it would not be possible seeing Cam’ron and L were in Children of the corn together

  • Blackattackjr

    why play big L back again let him rest in peace redo old raps.

  • S.T.P

    True that^^
    That was the ish back then not this Nicky Minaj Mac Miller crap..Mayne I don’t believe Big L would anything with an artist like Mac*fact*..These commercials should give a little more acknowledgement to Big L..

    R.IP BIG L,The true wordsmith