Today we remember Harlem’s very own Big L on what would’ve been his 49th birthday. Sadly, L, whose given name is Lamont Coleman, was shot and killed on his own block in Harlem a week after his alleged killer, Gerard Woodley, had an attempt made on his life back in 1998.

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The Uptown native founded the Children of the Corn and was a member of the legendary, BX-based Diggin’ in the Crates Crew. As a solo artist, his work with Kid Capri, Craig Boogie, Buckwild, Showbiz, and Lord Finesse have been instructional flows and verses for the millennial generation of emcees. His first release, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous (1995) was the pivotal release, making way for The Big Picture. TBP contained L’s most notorious song/single, Ebonics which served as a dictionary rap defining the slang/lingo used in the streets of NYC and beyond.  Produced by DJ Premier, Ron Browz, Lord Finesse, Pete Rock and others, TBP added to most of Big L’s notoriety, with hit songs such as M.V.P., The Enemy and Fall Back which solidified L’s position on the NYC totem pole of emcees who would later dominate the genre with commercial success.

L was murdered during a drive-by in Harlem, prior to the release of his second album. With only one album being released during his time, Big L never received the recognition that he properly deserved. The question has often arisen that if Big L would’ve lived, would Jay-Z have been as much of a megastar as he’s become. Back in 1995, Big L brought Jay-Z with him to represent on the Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show and the result from that almost 10 minute freestyle is proof that Big L was definitely one of NYC’s top contenders.