Album of the Week: “Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous” by Big L


Big L 
Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
Columbia, 1995

Daniel’s Thought

Reasons why Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous is our Album of the Week:

1. The album opens with “Put It On”, Big L’s response to his label asking for a bright track in contrast to his darker material on the album. Celebration is what “Put It On” represents, and even with this, Big L makes sure his opponents know who they’re dealing with. What he gave his label is now history. “Nobody can take nothing from Big L but a loss chief/ The last punk who fronted got a mouth full of false teeth/ I’m known to gas a hottie and blast the shottie/ Got more cash than Gotti, you don’t know, you better ask somebody

2. Buckwild produced “Put It On”, “8 Iz Enough”, “Danger Zone” and “Da Graveyard”. If you listen to these four songs back-to-back, the production will absolutely blow you away. Yet another reason why Buckwild (who has worked with the Jedi Mind Tricks crew, O.C., Guru, The Beastie Boys, among others) is one of the more underrated producers in all of hip-hop. On Lifestylez, Buckwild proves why he should be considered among the best.

3. The power of Big L is that he’s the master of the lyrical punch. He quite effortlessly shreds songs with metaphorical throngs of intelligence and interwoven hooks within verses. What L does best is combine the classic hip-hop sound and add in a new-age type of flow. On “I Don’t Understand It” he plays off of classic East Coast sound while incorporating slant rhymes that further his story: “But deep down inside you know who you are/ Your rhymes are not up to par, you fake superstar/ And that really gets on my nerve/ When a rapper gets the credit that he don’t deserve/ Goin platinum and don’t have no soul/ Some rappers are mad nice and don’t even go gold.” Here Big L uses his rhymes to call out mainstream hip-hop and rappers who fall under fake and lame persona’s. Even in the 90s, mainstream hip-hop was being called out.

4. Fueling Big L’s music, especially early on, was his recognition of street life before music brought him a changed life. “All Black”, which represents the suits worn at funerals, channels artists such as Nas or The Notorious B.I.G., but somehow Big L puts his own twist on things. “Once a nigga tried to stick me for six G’s/ And I put more holes in his ass than Swiss cheese” By mixing rough and ruckus content with comedic rhymes, Big L was able to constitute a particular brand of hip-hop storytelling, something that is very rarely seen these days.

5. Lamont Coleman, aka Big L, is one of the most underrated lyricists of all time. He had this unique way of wielding lines of horrocore that made you laugh, but at the same time, he had the ability to touch on his roots and discuss growing up in New York City and how that thoroughly affected him. He could sling tales of street crime and the corner and how that took a toll on him while also comparing his relationships with women to the show Beavis and Butthead. What Big L lacked in firm content – whereas artists like Nas and Tupac could claim they never suffered from – he made up for in such a gripping command of storytelling and lyricism. His punchlines stomped more ferociously than a bull on parade, and his demeanor was always calm like the collected cat he was behind the mic. Most importantly, Big L had range, and helped spur hip-hop just as much as anyone in the talent-filled pool of the 90s. An MC taken before his time, L will forever be a legend and an icon. Rhyme in peace.

Gus’ Thought

Most people agree that the Golden Age of hip-hop music lasted from the mid 80’s to early 90’s. At that time there was musical explosion as rap music began to make its way into pop-culture through M.T.V and the radio. Through their success in music, artists such as Snoop Dogg, N.W.A., Wu-Tang Clan and OutKast have broken into movies and other aspects of popular culture, guaranteeing legendary status for generations to come. When I think about the impact these artists have had, I also wonder about those that have gone. In particular, I wonder about The Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac and what their careers would be like if they were still alive. With that particular question, you also have to think about what could have been if Big L hadn’t been taken before his time.

From 1995’s Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, his first and only album released before this death, Big L demonstrates exceptional rhyming capabilities. Every now and then I just gotta have that track with nothing but signifying and braggadocio that you can just bump. In this category, L’s wordplay is out of this world as he dips, dodges and ducks around anyone that would try and step to him. This can be heard on “All Black,” “No Endz, No Skinz” and “Let Em Have It L”. For example, on “Danger Zone” he quips:

“I got styles you can’t copy bitch/ It’s the triple six in the mix, straight from H-E-double-hockey sticks/ Every Sunday, a nun lay from my gun spray/ Fuck Carlito, we doin’ shit the Devil Son’s way”

At the same time, Big L uses his slick lyricism to discuss what he grew up around in Harlem. With this, he demonstrates his creativity and skill at delivering quick and witty lyrics that bounce off the walls, and if you don’t pay close enough attention, you’ll miss it. At the same time, he uses this same creativity to bring hard-hitting reflections of urban life. As he says on “Street Struck:”

“And some of my peeps are still in the game sellin ‘caine/ If that’s what you gotta do to maintain, go ‘head and do your thang/ But with the cash profit make an investment/ And try not to go to the grave like the rest went/ Cause you can be rich with crazy loot, own a house and nine cars/ What good is that, if you’re dead, or behind bars?”

On Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, Big L uses hip-hop and his knowledge of the English language to speak to the ills of urban life from his experience. At the same time, he is a straight spitter that uses words to have a good time. When you listen to this record you will hear how Big L is one of the best lyricists of all time. It is an absolute tragedy that he was taken from us.

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