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Big L

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Big L
BigL

Birth name

Lamont Coleman

Born

30 May 1974
Harlem, New York, United States

Died

15 February 1999 (aged 24)
Harlem, New York, United States

Genres

Hip hop

Occupation(s)

Rapper

Years active

1990-1999

Labels

Columbia (1993-1995)
Flamboyant (1998-1999)

Associated acts

Children of the Corn, Diggin' in the Crates Crew, DJ Premier, Jay-Z, Lord Finesse, Shyheim

Lamont Coleman (30 May 1974 - 15 February 1999), better known by stage name Big L, was an American rapper from Harlem, New York. His first professional appearance came on the remix of Lord Finesse's "Yes You May" in 1991, and he later became a member of the Diggin' in the Crates Crew due to his association with Finesse. Big L released his debut album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, in 1995, and significantly contributed to the underground hip hop scene in New York. Shortly before his death, he created his own independent label, Flamboyant Entertainment, on which he released one of his best known singles, "Ebonics", in 1998.

The main components of Coleman's rapping style were a straight forward matter of factness, multi-syllabic rhymes, and a rough sense of humour. Many of his songs feature violent and homicidal lyrics, with songs "All Black" and "Devil's Son" being prominent examples of his use of the sub-genre horrorcore.

On 15 February 1999, Coleman was fatally shot by an unknown assailant in Harlem. His second studio album, The Big Picture, was put together by Coleman's manager, Rich King. It was released the following year and was certified gold. Four posthumous albums have been released, mainly consisting of unreleased songs which were put together by Rich King and Coleman's brother Donald. A documentary about his life called Street Struck: The Big L Story is being made and currently does not have a release date, although a trailer for the documentary is available on YouTube.

Early lifeEdit

Coleman was born in Harlem, New York on 30 May 1974 as the youngest and third child of Gilda Terry (d. 2008) and Charles Davis. His father left the family when Coleman was a child. His two siblings are Donald and Leroy "Big Lee" Phinazee, with the latter murdered in 1999. At the age of 12, Coleman became a big hip hop fan and started freestyling against his own neighbourhood. Around this time, Coleman adopted the stage name "Big L", a reference to his childhood nickname "Little L". In the summer of 1990, he met Lord Finesse at an autograph session in a record shop on 125th Street. After Coleman performed a freestyle, he and Finesse exchanged numbers.

Coleman attended Julia Richman High School. While in high school, Coleman freestyle battled in his hometown; in his last interview he stated, "In the beginning, all I ever saw me doing was battling everybody on the street corners, rhyming in the hallways, beating on the wall, rhyming to my friends. Every now and then, a house party, grab the mic, a block party, grab the mic." He graduated from high school in 1992.

CareerEdit

1991-1994: BeginningsEdit

In 1991, he founded the Harlem rap group Children of the Corn with Killa Cam, Murda Mase, and Bloodshed. On 11 Feburary of that same year, Coleman appeared on Yo! MTV Raps with Lord Finesse to help promote Finesse's studio album Return of the Funky Man. Coleman's first professional appearance came on the song "Yes You May (Remix)", the B-side of the 1992 single "Party Over Here" by Lord Finesse, and his first album appearance was on "Represent" off of Showbiz & A.G.'s 1992 album Runaway Slave. In that same year, he won an amateur freestyle battle, which consisted of about 2,000 contestants. In 1993, Coleman signed to Columbia Records. Around this time, Coleman had become a member Lord Finesse's Bronx-based hip hop collective Diggin' in the Crates Crew which consisted of Lord Finesse, Diamond D, O.C., Fat Joe, Buckwild, Showbiz, and A.G.

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.

1995-1999: Lifestylez ov da Poor & DangerousEdit

His debut solo album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, was released in March 1995. The album debuted at number 149 on the Billboard 200 and number 22 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. Lifestylez would go on to sell 200,000 copies as of 2000. Three singles would be released from the album; "Put It On" and "M.V.P.", reached the top twenty-five of the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks, while the third "No Endz, No Skinz" failed to chart.

In 1996, Coleman was dropped from Columbia because of the dispute between Coleman's rapping style and the production from Columbia. In 1997, he started working on his second studio album, The Big Picture. Children of the Corn disbanded after the death of Bloodshed in a car accident on 2 March 1997. In 1998, Coleman formed his own independent label, Flamboyant Entertainment. He also released the single "Ebonics" in 1998; The Source called it one of the top five independent singles of the year. DITC released their first single, "Dignified Soldiers" that year.

Coleman caught the eye of Damon Dash, the CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records, after the release of "Ebonics". Dash wanted to sign him to Roc-A-Fella, but Coleman wanted his friends to sign with him. On 8 February 1999, Coleman, Herb McGruff, C-Town and Jay-Z started the process to sign with Roc-A-Fella Records as a group called "The Wolfpack".

DeathEdit

Coleman was killed in the doorway of 45 West 139th Street in Harlem on 15 February 1999 after being shot nine times in the face and chest. Gerard Woodley, one of Coleman's childhood friends, was arrested in May for the crime but was later released due to insufficient evidence. His murder case remains unsolved.

DiscographyEdit

Main article: Big L discography

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