Big L – Part 1

1303774787_big-lI can’t help but start this blog with who, in my opinion, is the greatest rapper of all time — Lamont Coleman a.k.a. Big L. Big L is your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper. And probably his favorite rapper too. He is the hallmark example of advanced rapping and uses all sorts of complex techniques such as multi-syllabic rhymes, alliteration, metaphors, wordplay, and speed rapping. Add to this an immaculate, ice-cold flow with nasty, comical punch lines and you have only a taste of what this cat is capable of.

Big L only released ONE studio album in his career — Lifestylez Ov da Poor & Dangerous in 1995. In February 1999 he was shot and killed in a drive-by in Harlem. The murder case remains unsolved to this day. It is a testament to his skill that despite releasing only one album he is considered one of the greatest rappers that ever lived. Unfortunately, as happens in many cases, recognition of his rapping skills only came after his death. During his time hardly anyone even know who he was.

PUT IT ON

This track is his most popular and showcases all the various skills noted above. The most common technique is rhyming two words at a time (called compound rhyming).

“I smash mics like cornbread. You can’t kill me, I was born dead”

He doesn’t stop there. The wordplay aspect comes in when he spits bars that have a compound rhyme within a compound rhyme, then hooks another one, and then concludes.

“I push a sick benz, I’m know to hit skinz
and get ends and commit sins with sick friends”

Randomly throughout the track (and many others) L turns into a dragon and spits rapid fire. He starts rhyming flows with shows, but then suddenly brings in clever-to-miss and speed raps the rest with that ending. Crazy shit.

“I flows, (so one of my shows wouldnt be clever to miss
Im leaving competitors pissed to tell you the truth it gets no better than this)”

8 IZ ENUFF

This is one of his least listened-to songs. It might be because it features seven other artists (hence, 8 iz Enuff) and fans want to hear L all the way through. I am posting this because of L’s opening verse. It is another perfect example of his advanced rhyming abilities interspersed with fast changes in flow that few rappers are capable of.

“I put chumps to rest fast, when my Smith-Wes’ blast
So just dash or trespass and get your chest smashed
Rap New York rules, I sport jewels and extort crews
Don’t get me pissed, I got a short fuse”

FULL ALBUM

I have only written about two tracks that stand out to me. In all honesty, every track on this album is incredible and should be listened to. I will be coming back to write about Big L many times. In the meantime, start listening to the full album. Other tracks in my favorite list are Da Graveyard, Street Struck, and M.V.P

BIG L VS JAY-Z FREESTYLE (1995)

It’s true. On February 23rd, 1995 Big L and Jay-Z changed the rap game with their appearance on the Stretch and Bobbito radio show in NYC. Known as “The 7-minute Freestyle”, this clip was almost impossible to find after it went live, and 15 years later it finally surfaced. Nowadays it is considered one of the greatest freestyle’s of all time — and after hearing it you will understand why.

At the time, Big L was right in the middle of his career. Although he never made it big time, this freestyle was done the month before he put out Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous. On the other side was a completely unknown rapper. Yes, 2 decades ago when this was recorded, Jay-Z was 26, had never put out an album, and no one had ever heard of him.

It goes without saying, Jay-Z got murdered in this battle. It’s a combination of L’s more-than-usual use of witty lyrics, autobahn-speed rapping, a rollercoaster flow, and impeccable, on-point delivery. Fast-forward to 4:00 to see L go super-saiyan. Jay-Z is good and incorporates many rap tactics that most freestylers don’t, but he still gets shown up by the master.

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Structure of RaaSkillz

There is no particular, systematic structure to this blog. I will just be posting tracks with short reviews as they come up in my mind. The focus of my reviews will be more on the lyrical skills and techniques of the rapper, as opposed to a biography or history. I will also be posting tracks one or two at a time. The reason is because you all probably don’t have time to read a 5-page discography review of every single track the artist has put out (nor do I have time to write that much). Instead, I’ll just post my favorite tracks, write a few lines about it, and link you to the rest you can you listen for yourself. In the case of my favorite rappers you will likely see them come up several times at various intervals (with another one or two tracks).

From time to time I’ll categorize blog and track posts according to a theme. Sometimes when I listen to new (or old) tracks a certain technique or quality will catch my ear. If that happens, I look around for other tracks with the same quality. For example, I might write a post about the use of Alliteration in rhyming schemes and post several tracks that highlight this technique. Another example is internal rhyming.

To lay the groundwork for this blog, I will start with some old school rappers who exemplify what I mean by lyricism, technical rap, and complex rhyme schemes. These guys set the stage for the future emcees on the scene. If you listen to these guys and pay attention to their sheer skill and lyrical ability, and then listen to some mainstream rap on the radio, you will agree that hip hop is indeed dead. My goal here is to show you that it is not. So after kickin’ it old school for a bit we will start digging into the underground to find today’s equivalents of the old school kings.