Big L’s First Verse On Wax Showed Heads That He Was A Rookie MVP (Audio)
Big L lived to see just one of his albums release. 1995’s Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous has become something of a cult classic. The Columbia/Sony Records LP has early JAY-Z and Cam’ron appearances and lethal D.I.T.C. production from Lord Finesse, Showbiz, as well as Buckwild. However, all of that takes a back-seat to Lamont Coleman’s cutting lyricism about life in the “Danger Zone,” Rap exploits, and a twisted interior monologue. At the time of his death, L was plotting an incredible follow-up in The Big Picture. Sadly, the Harlem, New Yorker would never live to see that LP through, or hoist its gold plaque.
Like Jay, Nas, or today’s Kendrick Lamar, Big L’s journey was not easy, and it was not quick. While platforms like Stretch & Bobbito were early to Lamont’s mastery, labels and gatekeepers were not. In hindsight, L blazed a trail of talent far before his debut. As far as wax goes, that journey began on a Lord Finesse 12″ single. Like Diamond D (via Ultimate Force), Finesse was one of the first Diggin’ artists to get on. He reportedly discovered L in an Uptown record store. While Finesse rarely gets credit for it, he had a sharply witty sense about him, impeccable timing, and the ability to craft a punchline as well as anybody in the early 1990s scene. Like Large Professor with Nas, Jaz-O with Jay, or Snoop with Tha Dogg Pound, a-alike styles prevailed. Finesse plausibly saw some of himself and his style in teenaged L, and put him on. Like so many early ’90s songs, it was not a grand gesture.
Finesse’s February of 1992 sophomore Return Of The Funky Man may be the triple-threat’s best work. While the Lord would enhance his production, he commandeered the mic device in his short-lived stint with Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate boutique label at Warner Bros. After a short run at Wild Pitch (signed by Gang Starr’s Guru), Finesse created just a few spots for guests. A.G. was his star pupil, while “rhyme inspector” Percee P (who battled Finesse in Patterson projects in 1989) both appeared on the album track “Yes You May.”
In May of ’92, a T-Ray produced B-side remix of “Yes You May” was released, backed by “Party Over Here” and “Save That Sh*t.” This time, (despite the vocals claiming A.G. and Percee were still on board) Finesse solely tapped Big L to put that cocky wordplay to work, with show-stopping punchlines:
“Ayo everywhere that I go, brothers know my f*cking name / I’m flooring ni**as, and I only weigh a buck and change / I gave a lot of black eyes in my extorting days / F*cking with me, a lotta ni**as was sporting shades / I grab the microphone and scar jerks / Ni**as running up, ‘Put me on!,’ What the f*ck, is this, Star Search? / I’m relieving rappers like Sudafed / And if the microphone was smoke then Big L would be a Buddha head / Ayo my crew’s real smooth like mopeds / I was rocking mics since ni**as was wearing Pro Keds / I only roll with originators / Chicks stick to my d*ck like magnets on refrigerators / I’m a crazy mean lyricist / Many are in fear of this, yeah, so they stand clear of this / And those that refuse the order, Big L bruise and slaughter / Ni**as hear me and take notes like a news reporter / I’ll bend a rapper like a fender, I’m slender, but far from tender / Killing ni**as like a Klan member / You can’t touch this, your rhyme’s too darn weak, front / And I’m a introduce your brains to the concrete / I keep h*es satisfied, I’m pushing the fattest ride / To take me out, troop, even the baddest tried / But they failed ’cause my techniques are liver / I’m so def I need a hearing aid with an equalizer / You tried to hit a home run, but you struck out / My rhymes were released, I’d like to say peace the f*ck out.”
Like Nas on Main Source’s “Live At The Barbeque,” Big L made the most vicious debut he could. And just like Large Professor on that joint a year earlier, Finesse showed he had it locked too. The UnderBoss kicked flavor like “I’m scoring mine, never kicking boring rhymes / I’m living larger than my d*ck in the morning time / I get paid and laid on a good night / Me take a loss? That sh*t don’t even look right / Brothers couldn’t win against me with their hardest tactics / I hang ’em and use their ass for target practice / If you think you can troop, go recruit your team or group / We can battle for some loot, sh*t / I take you, and plus the rest of your squad / Bust your ass and make you all get messenger jobs.” This was a two-MC punch that sounded great, and knew early what the rest of the world would come to find out.
#BonusBeat: The Lord Finesse vs. Percee P Patterson Projects battle:
Elements of this battle would be the basis of Finesse’s “Rock and Roll” verse with Handsome Boy Modeling School.