This weekend marked the fifteenth anniversary of the passing of Diggin’ In The Crates Crew emcee Big L. Big L, whose given name was Lamont Coleman, was 24 years old at the time of his murder in 1999. The rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting before the release of his sophomore album.
In 1995, Big L released his debut album, Lifestylez of da Poor & Dangerous, on Columbia Records. The 12-song release featured production almost exclusively from DITC members Showbiz, Lord Finesse and Buckwild. Big L’s Lifestylez followed his founding the Hip Hop group Children of the Corn in the early 1990s. Besides Big L, Children of the Corn featured future stars Cam’ron and Mase, who then went by Killa Kam and Murda Mase, respectively. The group also included fellow Harlem emcee Herb McGruff, who was featured on Big L’s debut, and Cam’ron’s cousin, amongst others.
Besides Children of the Corn, Big L quickly became associated with the Bronx-based Diggin’ In The Crates group before joining officially as one of its members. On Facebook and Instagram, crewmember and long-time collaborator Lord Finesse reminisced on Big L’s life. “I’ve been in the game for a minute,” Finesse wrote on Facebook, “this by far was my greatest blessing [and] accomplishment.. The Harlem Renaissance Man. Before him you had Doug E Fresh, Kool Moe Dee, Rob Base, Treacherous Three and others. But when he came out he took Harlem’s rap to another level. We Miss You.. This weekend on his anniversary, I’ll be posting something special. People always ask me about how we met. I’ll let him tell it.”
In a video posted with the message, Big L describes meeting Lord Finesse and initiating work with the DITC producers for his demo. “I met Lord Finesse in 1991 in a record store,” he says in the video. “I told him, ‘homie, I’m kind of nice, put me on.’ He was like, ‘drop a little something.’ I dropped a little something for him, he liked it, we exchanged numbers, he started letting me rock out in his shows, open up for him. He put me on one of his remix singles, introduced me to Showbiz and AG, they put me on they album. Made some fat demos, took themem to Columbia, boom, got signed.” The remix single L references as his professional debut in the video was the B-side of Lord Finesse’s sophomore album single “Party Over Here.”
Finesse also encouraged fans to post their favorite Big L quotes on Twitter before sharing one of his own.
Big L: Break in cribs with a crowbar, I wasn’t “POOR”, I was “PO” I couldn’t afford the “OR” Y’
— Lord Finesse (@LordFinesseDITC) February 15, 2014
DJ Premier took to Instagram to remember the rapper. “Big L,” he wrote, “your old rhymes still can wax any new MC that thinks they have dope lyrics. Forever Flamboyant 4 Life !!! I miss your jokes and your heated debates with Showbiz in the studio over Malcolm X & MLK while we waited for Fat Joe to write his verse for ‘The Enemy.’ R.I.P. Big Lee & Pinky #D.I.T.C.”
Lifestylez ov da Poor & Righteous produced three official singles for Big L. In 1996, Columbia released “Put It On” as the album’s third single. The video for Big L can be streamed below.
In 2010, Lord Finesse broke down the making of Big L’s Lifestylez for an exclusive HipHopDX feature.