There was always something raw about Big L’s abilities on the microphone. He was a unique talent that blessed the culture with legendary rhymes in a manner that made it all seem far too easy. After a tragic shooting, Big L’s death left a dent that has impacted the art of rhyme in ways that can’t be calculated. Thankfully, his voice lives on in his recordings, those raw gems that continue to make heads nod more than a decade after his untimely passing.
The beauty of The Danger Zone is that it provides a platform for Big L’s work to continue breathing. L’s work has influenced many established artists directly or indirectly and his techniques with a pen, pad and mic remain celebrated for the manner in which L paved the way. Look to Fabolous, Joe Budden, Lloyd Banks and others to see just how influential “rap’s M.V.P.” has been. For the uninitiated, his strength was in his rhyme schemes and clever wit, effortlessly delivered with a nonchalant style. All of that is present here, as one would expect. “I’m running with a real smooth crew that’ll shoot at you. You wanna knuckle up? Whatever. We could do that, too,” he rhymes on the album. L didn’t just boast, though. He took braggadocio to new heights when he rhymed. His subject matter wasn’t always the cleanest or safest but his technique was always one of the sharpest. This often caused rewind buttons to pop with lines like, “I put chumps to rest fast when my Smith-Wes blasts so just dash or trespass and get your chest smashed.” He didn’t just say what he wanted; he rhymed it better and made it wittier than most others could have at the time.
The Danger Zone, however, is not without flaws. The biggest concern lies with the repetition of verses. On this release, the same verse is heard on “Tru Master,” “98 Halftime Radio” and then again on “Cluemanati.” While the verse is strong, hearing it three times on a release is too much déjà vu for one album. A minor gripe fans may have exists in the inevitably dated punchlines. Today, few kids would know what L means when he says he’s “got more dimes than that Sprint lady, and that’s ill.” Shout outs to Candice Bergen aside, Big L’s rhymes could make many of today’s emcees retreat so that remains a minor blip.
Hearing Big L is always a blessing for a fan of emceeing. His similes, wordplay and multisyllabic rhyme patterns continue to shine with time. The Danger Zone may be a must-have for die-hard fans, but it probably could have gone unreleased. After all, Big L’s raw talent will shine regardless.