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Big L – Audition (freestyle)
Big L – C Town Tutorial (freestyle)
Big L – Flamboyant (Cookin Soul remix)
Yungun – The Good Ones (Big L and J Dilla Tribute)
Big L – Slaying The Mic (freestyle)
Big L feat Kid Capri – Put It On (Dj Fade remix)
Big L feat Kid Capri /J Dilla – Put It On (Dj Soul remix)
D.I.T.C – Thick
D.I.T.C – All Luv
L.A Boppers – You Did It Good
Show & A.G feat Big L, Lord Finesse and Deshaw - Represent
Big L – Schooldays
D.I.T.C – Dignified Soldiers
Note: this is not a ‘best of’, it is a mix of some of my favourite Big L material comprised of rarities, freestyles, remixes and collaborations from throughout his life and career.
Mix and text by Hayden Brown -
It was on my mind this February to do that Big L mix I'd always wanted to, to say thanks for all those verses he'd blessed us with. I'd been a fan since the age of 17 and he was slain only a couple of years after that. I feel the world was of robbed of one of the greatest rappers that ever lived, and this has only been partially recognised by folks since. I had almost forgotten about the mix when I heard a song by London rapper Yungun on Gilles Peterson Worldwide show which was a tribute to him and also Jay Dee. This seemed almost too crazy to be a coincidence so I've set out to pay homage to someone who never got to see this side of the millennium.
If you've never heard of Big L before, the first thing that may strike you is the overwhelming negativity in his lyrics -- the violence, misogyny and homophobia are all rampant themes in his bruising flows. In the rap world of the 90’s it would have been all too easy at first to dismiss Big L as another knucklehead rapper like any of the many with commercial aspirations - trying to ride to fame on the coat-tails of the gangster image. But anybody who actually stopped to listen would quickly discover a wordsmith with a surprisingly eloquent flow who was fiercely ambitious and knew how to traverse the boundaries of street savvy storytelling and intelligent rapping with an alarming nonchalance. This combination of complexity and appeal as we know is rare, and means he could have been one of the great showmen of the rap stage had he not been gunned down in his prime on February the 15th 1999 at only 24 years of age.
Big L’s appeal might have something to do with his ability to cast himself as a larger than life character in his own ‘flamboyant’ horror story. He could deliver an entire 16 about murdering someone and have it somehow come off sounding charismatic, kind of the same way Joe Pesci could talk of ‘whacking’ someone in a movie and end up being menacing but not menacing at the same time. His uptown braggadocio was his currency and he was more than happy to deliver a show for his fans and bask in the respective glory this afforded him.
The track 'I Won't' that recently surfaced on the 'Return of Devils Son' compilation displays a more plaintive and lonely side to L. Devoid of all the tough talk it's a sad story of a loveless upbringing. “I'm only at the age of 10 and life already seems to me like it's heading for a dead end, cause my Moms be smoking mad crack, my Dad went out for a fast snack and never brought his ass back.” to elaborate on this dead end he talks about, the chorus predicts his own death: 'How will I make it? I won't, that's how.' which in retrospect becomes sadly poignant.
When visiting New York I took a trip uptown one day and stopped by the famed '139 & Lennox' that is so often referenced in his songs, which also reportedly is near where he was killed - these days it seems a lot less menacing on a sunny day with a tree-lined playground on the corner. Whilst living in Montreal I met a Haitian security guard who grew up in Harlem and knew of Big L and he told me a bit about his life and how he died. As an outsider with no relation to the deceased, it's not my place to speak on it, but suffice to say it sounded as grisly as the stories Big L would often rap about. From early on Lord Finesse recognised the raw talent Big L exuded, and in turn L had the good sense to run with his Diggin’ in the Crates (D.I.T.C) crew - a symbiotic relationship that cemented his underground fame. While commercial success was elusive after his first album on Columbia Records, the second half of the nineties proved to be concerned with producing a more polished product – although this was only able to be realised by fans posthumously on the album ‘The Big Picture’. Wikipedia states that Jay-Z was to sign Big L to Roc-A-Fella records however he was murdered a week before this was due to transpire. Big L Rest in Peace!
“Big L is the rebel type, I’m rough as a metal pipe, fuck a Benz cos I can pull skins on a pedal bike”
“Everywhere that I go, brothers know my fuckin name. I’m floorin n$^&*s and I only weigh a buck in change.”