lifestylez of the poor and dangerous

Big L - Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous



I wrote about Big L's titanium debut as part of Passionweiss' Hardest Rap Albums Of All Time. You can read the rest here. 

“So don’t step to this ‘cause I got a live crew / You might be kinda big but they make coffins your size too / I was taught wise / I’m known to extort guys / This ain’t Cali, it’s Harlem nigga, we do walk-by’s.”

Spite incarnate, Big L’s music was forever shadowed by death. Every other line was a blast of threats aimed at enemies, doubters, competitors and anyone who had something to lose. Lamont Coleman was undermining parent’s attempts to raise well-adjusted children, years before Shady gripped a chainsaw. L splattered his bars with an encyclopedia of offensive content and spat them with enough malice to traumatize a Juggalo. Who else would end a song by shouting out murderers, thieves and people with AIDS?

Coleman’s debut was the only full-length album recorded during his short life and he named it in direct opposition to television showLifestyles of the Rich and Famous. As someone who had no time for caviar dreams, Big L was the quintessential disaffected youth. He was too poor to afford a conscience and rarely paused between dome cracking bars to reflect on social issues. Cold angst permeates throughout the record and as a fan of horror films, L relished playing the villain and shocking the listener. While other emcees claimed the means justified the ends, Lamont laughed off constraint and poisoned eardrums with comparisons to the devil.

The power of Lifestylez doesn’t just lie in dark imagery though. Big L was a paradigm of technical ability with internal rhyme schemes and caustic wit. “I got styles you can’t copy bitch, it’s the triple six, In the mix, straight from H-E-double-hockey sticks.” Coleman’s lyrical bloodbath was also backed by D.I.T.C’s production and the album knocks front to back. Unfortunately, Columbia couldn’t predict suburbanites enjoying jokes about killing nuns and found Illmatic’s conscious spin on street-life was easier to market. Big L was dropped a year later and gunned down before he could record a proper follow-up making this project a haunting reminder of the realities of Harlem in 1995.