Finesse: Not saying it would be cool or I would wish it, but if anybody else out the crew got killed I wouldn’t be as shocked as when it happened to L. That’s why I look at Harlem different.
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The great Jadakiss once rapped the line “dead rappers get better promotion,” which has grown to be known as one of the most profound phrases in hip-hop history. While rumors stirred over the years about the motive behind the rapper’s death — some believed it was mistaken identity, other chatter surmised it as retaliation — one name that stuck closely to the cold case was Gerard Woodley, who incidentally happened to be a childhood friend of the rapper. Woodley, who appears on the far right in the photo above (as well as the back cover of L’s debut album), was arrested for the crime in May 1999 with police calling the slaying an act of revenge against the rapper’s brother, Leroy “Big Lee” Phinazee, who was in prison at the time. However, despite being charged with second-degree murder, Woodley was never convicted and the case was ultimately thrown out due to lack of evidence.
After some delay on the signing, due to the Harlem rapper wanting his crew, including C-Town and Herb McGruff, to sign to Roc-A-Fella along with him, all parties were in the final stages of the process.
On the night of February 14, 1999, Lamont Coleman, better known by his rap alias Big L, was left in cold blood after authorities found the 24-year-old gunned down near his home in Harlem, New York. The rapper, who had released his debut album in 1995, Lifestylez Ov Da Poor and Dangerous, and was preparing to sign a reported deal with Roc-A-Fella Records, was shot nine times in the face and chest at 139th and Lenox Ave.
C.: The next album on deck afterC.’s own Jewelz was supposed to be me and L. Showbiz had seen our chemistry on my single, Dangerous.” So, without us knowing, he put a plan in motion: he told us to meet him at his spot around the corner from Harlem Hospital. He dropped a bag of money in our laps like, Y’all gonna do this album. Let’s get to work.” The money caught us off guard, but we had big-ass smiles on our faces, like, Shit yeah, let’s do it.” Get Yours” was the first track we worked on; it wasn’t designed for the soundtrack to the Jet Li movie Black Mask, on which the song appeared. It ended up being the only song we got done. That experience always left a question mark over my head: how the album with L would’ve come out.
Kurt: The group I was working with were called The Ultramagnetic MCs, and one of the guys, Ced Gee, had introduced me to a guy named Tim Dog. He did a record called Fuck Compton,” that did extremely well. So, crazy Tim and this street guy named I God, they kept saying Kurt, I’ve got his kid, he’s off the hook, man.” They brought him up and he was real young at the time. I was like This kid looks like he’s about 15 years old.” He came to the office, this is about ‘91-’92, and he didn’t have a demo. He just started to rap, I thought the kid’s metaphors and flows were incredible.
Born Lamont Coleman May 30, 1974, he was raised in Harlem, N.Y., where he would begin rap battling in the streets by his early teens before being discovered by Lord Finesse of the Diggin’ In the Crates crew.
In 1998, he founded Flamboyant Entertainment, his own indie label, through which he released one of his most popular singles, “Ebonics” (1998). On February 15, 1999, Coleman was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in his native Harlem. His second studio album, The Big Picture, was put together by Coleman’s manager, Rich King, and released posthumously the following year. It was eventually certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Finesse: Biggie and L went on tour together. L had the Debarge “Stay With Me” sample first on his record “MVP.” L’s version was first. B.I.G.’s “One More Chance” was second. Big and them heard L’s version before they did their version. That’s a documented fact. After that L wanted to do a remix and he liked the mix so much they shot the “MVP” video with that.
Finesse: Not saying it would be cool or I would wish it, but if anybody else out the crew got killed I wouldn’t be as shocked as when it happened to L. That’s why I look at Harlem different. You have all these undertones in Harlem. You can’t catch everything that’s going on in Harlem or what’s the motive. It’s just a lot of undertones. That shit goes all the way to Alpo and Rich Porter. Somebody could love you and you get money together but there’s all these undertones, jealousy and needs. From the outside looking in, you see none of this. I ain’t see this happening. I ain’t see this coming. As much as L repped Harlem to the fullest, I never in a million years saw him getting killed in Harlem.
Though his later production work never stacked up as high as the work of his fellow crew members Lord Finesse, Showbiz, and Diamond D, Buckwild’s beats have underscored some prominent names in hip-hop, including Kool G Rap, Nas , Jay-Z, and P. Diddy.
Fat Joe: He was one of the best punchline rappers ever. Even to this day, all my nephews, my son, everybody worships Big L. They act like he’s a brand new rapper. And it’s crazy because the young kids they gravitate to L, maybe because he passed away when he was still young. So they think he’s still young.
The album failed to move a considerable amount of units, but also was lauded as one of the better albums of the year and introduced Big L to rap fanatics in the underground scene. After being dropped by Columbia due to artistic differences, Big L started his own independent label, Flamboyant Entertainment, in 1998 and released the classic single, “Ebonics,” which was rated as one of the biggest indie rap songs of the year. But just when Big L’s career seemed to be taking off, he was was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Harlem.
I also believe that Big L is the greatest freestyler of all-time. Most people believe that his ‘98 Freestyle” is his best freestyle ever, but I disagree because I believe that his 7 Minute Freestyle with Jay-Z is the greatest Freestyle in hip-hop history. It was on the Stretch and Bobbito show in 1995, and Big L spit some of the best bars ever in a freestyle! Here’s the link to that as well if you haven’t heard it before.
Lamont Coleman, more commonly known as Big L”, is one of the illest to ever spit on the microphone. His lyricism is on the same level as some of the other All-Time greats, such as Nas, Eminem, and Biggie. In my opinion, Big L is the Greatest Rapper of All-Time, and this is why I believe he is.
Though just 24 at the time of his slaying, and having unearthed only the tip of a creative iceberg, Big L managed to leave a Titanic wake. To celebrate his life, and to answer some of the questions still lingering now 20 years later, VIBE assembled a who’s who of rap staples: Diggin’ in the Crates architects and primary L producers Lord Finesse and Showbiz; D.I.T.C. compeerC.; radio stalwarts Funkmaster Flex (who admired the ascent of his fellow Bronx bomber, Finesse), DJ Eclipse, and Lord Sear, also a Harlemite; Sauce Money, himself a fierce MC who came up with famed Big L frenemy Jay-Z; sonic savant DJ Premier, whose throaty Big L rest in peace” mantra kicks off Gang Starr’s Full Clip.” Regrettably omitted: DJ Premier’s Big L impersonations, the rapid-fire articulation employed even, as Preem attests, when L was having a conversation.
Sometime in 1993, Coleman released his first promotional single, “Devil’s Son”, and claimed it was the first horrorcore single released. He said he wrote the song because “I’ve always been a fan of horror flicks. Plus the things I see in Harlem are very scary. So I just put it all together in a rhyme.” On 18 February 1993, Coleman performed live at the Uptown Lord Finesse Birthday Bash at the 2,000 Club, which included performances from Fat Joe, Nas , and Diamond D. In 1994, he released his second promotional single “Clinic”. On 11 July 1994, Coleman released the radio edit of ” Put It On ” featuring Kid Capri , and three months later the music video was released. In 1995, the video for the single ” No Endz, No Skinz ” debuted, which was directed by Brian Luvar.
BNC has been over a decade in the making thanks to J.C. Watts, the former Oklahoma congressman who wanted to create a platform similar to CNN with only news and insight by people of color. Networks like BET and TVOne have respectfully released similar programming in the past with BET Nightly News and News One Now hosted by Roland Martin, but this new network plans to run on a 24-hour news cycle while tying in programs that will benefit teens, women, and HBCUs.
Big L is easily one of Hip Hop’s best lyricists to ever touch the mic. Point blank. His voice, cadence, witty punchline and cocky delivery set him up to be a legend even before he had an album out. From mixtape appearances and various features on D.I.T.C related albums, Big L’s rep only grew as fans and other rappers alike marveled at his talent. When his debut Lifestylez ov Da Poor & Dangerous dropped in ’95 it was an immediate street hit. Few at the time would realize that Lifestylez — which was only a modest commercial success at the time — would go on to be considered a true classic of the era, comparable to Illmatic itself.
Yet aside from the ’99 single Bonafide” featuring Jay-Z, and past collaborations with Fat Joe and Big Pun, OC has kept little contact with hip-hop’s commercial side. That paradox has caused periods of noticeable struggles. In the tussle to maintain artistic integrity and still sell records, OC has often voiced frustrations with the critical lows in his music career—to an extent where fans and critics have wondered if he might throw in the towel or suddenly go pop. But his recent Oasis collaboration with AG, reminded listeners once again that OC still hasn’t lost his step, even if he progresses at his own pace. And he still has love for the collective he became a part of, despite inner-tensions.
But while he might have diverted from the more traditional approach of his D.I.T.C. crew over the years—as he quickly bounced from humble beginnings to notable peaks of fame to drastic feuds with 50 Cent over credibility (at a time when rappers were verbally attacking each other like politicians)—Fat Joe still keeps a visible respect for the original crew he came up with.
That farm-system approach to cultivating artists dates back to a time when Lord Finesse was at the peak of his mentoring game and helping others get on: like the late Lamont Coleman. He was shot and killed in Harlem on the night of February 15, 1999, just blocks away from his home. He was only 24 years old at the time of his death.
HARLEM — The chief suspect in the murder of rapper Big L in 1999 was gunned down in Harlem Thursday night, sources said. He released his debut album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous in 1995, and significantly contributed to the underground hip-hop scene.