February 17, 2009

Reader Review: Big L - Lifestylez Uv Da Poor & Dangerous (March 28, 1995)

(I just realized that this album came out on the same day as Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s debut. Weird. Anyway, Jaded Scenester NYC (who has his own blog, also titled Jaded Scenester NYC) brings us a write-up on Big L’s first album, Lifestylez Uv Da Poor & Dangerous. Sit back with the illicit substance of your choice and enjoy.)

Big L, known to his mama as Lamont Coleman, represented Harlem to the fullest. (He was so loyal to Harlem that he refused to eat dairy products, because they couldn’t be produced locally, due to a lack of cows on his block.) He came up, rhymed, lived and on February 15, 1999, died on the streets of Uptown, a casualty of the street life he rhymed about but didn’t necessarily take part in firsthand. He was a lot like 2Pac in that way: he talked a lot of shit, but most people could tell he wasn’t built like he talked. For one thing, L lived with his mother, but when your older brothers were part of the formidable Legendary NFL Crew that ran his block of 139th St and Lenox Ave, you knew people had your back. After dead-end runs with his first group, Children of the Corn, and an ill-fated project with the then-Killa Cam’Ron and his cousin Bloodshed, L caught the ear of Lord Finesse, who inserted him onto a couple tracks, including the remix of his own “Yes You May” in 1992, on which Lamont blew everybody’s mind who heard him. 1995 found Big L on Columbia Records, releasing Lifestyles Ov Da Poor and Dangerous with Finesse and the rest of his D.I.T.C affiliates behind the boards.

This was the first Big L track I ever heard. The video was all over The Box and NYC public access hip-hop shows and I ended up picking it up on 12” at Rock and Soul. That may have been in the horrific era that was the time before I became personally aware of Lord Finesse. I loved the Big L swagger and the little dancehall interlude, even if the beat was a little bit fruity for a guy that fronts as hard as L does here. (The beat is a bit too overtly radio-friendly: however, if this shit were released today, there’s no way it would ever see the light of day on the airwaves. Ahhh, 1995 was a different time.) And with all due respect to Kid Capri, the hook gets a little bit old after he shouts it fifty times on the very first chorus. The video for this exposes our man L as even more of an anomaly in the rap game: a street rapper who wakes up at 7am every morning for no particular reason except for to walk the streets and rhyme. (That description made me laugh my ass off.) This attention to healthy living may account for his phenomenal rhyme skills and breath control.

2. M.V.P.
This was the second single from the record. While listening to this album again to write this, I realized that the same loop pops up in Biggie’s “One More Chance” remix. Some internet investigation finds “M.V.P.” being released three months or so before the B.I.G. remix. That might make someone think perhaps Puff jacked the loop from Finesse, but that doesn’t sound like the Puff we all know and respect: I’m sure he was busy swindling Craig Mack out of his publishing or something. Again, not my favorite L track, but personally, I think this song was scuttled by its video. I take back what I said about Capri on the last song: I would rather hear him shout that hook until my ears bled before I suffer through seeing a shirtless Kid getting a massage not once, but twice, in black and white even. The contrast makes Conan O’Brien look like Seal, and that’s before we address the Kid’s Flintstonian physique.

Now we’re getting somewhere. L ups the rhyme flow on a Showbiz beat and comes with some Big Daddy Kane shit. It kind of reminds us of his infamous freestyle with Lord Finesse over a similar Otis Redding loop. Here, in an attempt to bring the genders closer together, L drops science on the dynamic between one’s money and the honeys. Like many rappers who lived with their mothers, L has a misogynistic streak. Ladies take note: while L appreciates your affections, please be advised that if you ask him for a ring, he’ll be inclined to put one around your whole eye. This has been a public service announcement. If you need L, he’ll be at his mom’s house (possibly setting the table or washing some clothes).

This is the first of the posse cuts on this album and the one with most rhymers. Bigger is not always better, but Buckwild conjures up a nasty beat with a kicking bass and snare and these street dogs go to town on it. Most of these guys went back to chilling in Lenox Park with their 40 oz. of royalties soon afterward (I imagine said “royalties” was enough to purchase the one 40 oz., since there aren’t a ton of people out there that actually own this album), but the track is notable for the presence of Herb McGruff and Killa Cam (from L’s old crew Children Of The Corn: I guess Murda Mase (which he was known as prior to switching up to Bad Boy’s shiny-suited Ma$e) was busy preaching the Word to Harlem World’s finest trannies). McGruff holds his own with L, though, and Killa Cam comes hard enough to almost show why people still miss him today. (Almost.)

Another nasty Finesse beat featuring L talking mad shit. To wit: thugs better scatter when the firearm goes click-clack, or else your family will be wearing garments bearing the titular description. L just so happens to knows a fine way to get your family together, and he’s not referring to a reunion. Consider yourself forewarned, and try not to trip over the irony on your way out.

Big L and his brothers in the NFL crew held the corner of 139th St and Lenox Ave in Harlem down as their own. L was photographed on the corner for the album cover and fatally shot not far from said zone. Here L warns the uninformed of what errant visitors might be subjected to in his hood, the aforementioned “Danger Zone”. Acts include (and, I assume, are not confined to) head shooting via ambush, rape, (fucking up your taxes on purpose in hopes that you’ll get audited by the I.R.S., informing everybody in your building that you’re a closet fan of Desperate Housewives), terrorizing children in their dreams, and/or necrophilia. And that’s just him.

“Street Struck” explores the other side of the world L had exposed on the previous tracks, enjoying that curious 2Pac grey area in which you can talk about raping bitches and giving them A.I.D.S or shooting someone’s grandmother over a drug debt, then come with some “Shorties Caught Up In The Game” introspective-type shit. Those cautionary tales didn’t seem to help either party, did they?

Ah, with the previous track’s public service message duly expunged, it’s back to business as usual for Big L and company. Here’s another posse cut, this one slanted more towards the Diggin’ In The Crates side of things. Buckwild comes with the fire track and Finesse himself pops up to reminds everybody where L got his style from, but save for the early appearance of the recently deceased Party Arty, “Da Graveyard” is most notable for the presence of Jay-Z and his old school wack-ass Das EFX flow. Rumor has it that Jay left his old flow in said graveyard after being shown up by Shyheim The Rugged Child on Big Daddy Kane’s “Show and Prove”. (Whereas I thought Shyheim had the worst verse on that particular song. I guess that means Shawn thought his flow really sucked.) Where Jay made the pact with the Devil that got him his flow, his money, and Beyonce, is still shrouded in mystery. (I assume a crossroads was involved.)

Despite the title’s spelling that necessitated his later “Ebonics” single, L slows it down and drops some BDP-style socially conscious thug shit. Check the head-nodding Harlem style over the nasty bass slide and a dirty snare that Finesse cooks up.

Same old story, 1995 version. Showbiz loops the bass lines while L wonders why MCs fall off and sell out. With L being shot a week before he was to allegedly sign his Flamboyant Entertainment to Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella label, it would have been interesting to see how things would have gone if he’d risen to the level of Jay-Z (which wouldn’t have happened, but it could have been interesting to watch). I’m doubtful that the reanimated corpse of Big L could get a record released on Def Jam today. (It’s because he’s not from the South.)

Another story we’ve heard before, but no less relevant in the 21st century. Big L is sick of getting fucked with by the cops (could be all that killing, necrophilia and child scaring that has the authorities on alert) on a street tale notable for having come before the Abner Louima incident and the deaths of Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell.

L closes things with some shit-talking battle rhymes. I guess he had recorded the final song for the album and realized he had been remiss in letting suckers know some incidental aspects of his general bearing. He comes hard, letting us know that, among other things, that he would not wear polka-dots, he eschews the martial arts in favor of the esoteric art of gun-fu, and that were one to engage him, battling him is like fighting a gorilla in a phone booth. Also, he would like to remind others to please get off his dick. (That is all.)

FINAL THOUGHTS: Lifestylez Uv Da Poor & Dangerous was the only studio record L released in his lifetime, and while it isn’t exactly representative of the battle rapper we’d heard on mixtapes previously, even with the stupid spelling in the title, this album was better than most of the records in its day. Hell, it’s better than most hip-hop dropped in this millennium.

BUY OR BURN? I’m sure this is out of print, so I’d say burn a copy of this and actually buy The Big Picture (Big L's posthumous second album). I’m sure Rawkus Records could use the cash.

BEST TRACKS: “Da Graveyard”, “All Black”

-Jaded Scenester NYC

(Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below. Here’s the link to my original post for comparison’s sake.)


  1. i love L's flow, there's only a handfull that I can say are up there with his wordplay (Rakim and GZA being the 2 that I can name from the top of my head. wouldnt it be interesting to see the gza and big l battle). But all in all this album is a definite purchase, which isn't out of print by the way.

  2. Funny write up, I enjoyed it. For those that are interested in buying it, the album isn't out of print and it's only 8$ on amazon.


  3. I have to admit that this was a pretty good guest review. Entertaining!

    And yes, it's a pretty good album too.

  4. Actually it isn't out of print. You can buy it at Best Buy for $12.00 online or in store.

  5. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessFebruary 18, 2009

    Best guest review ever. He undersold the album a little bit, though. It's definitely worth buying.

  6. AnonymousJuly 20, 2009

    the album isnt out of print, i got a copy for my friend 2 months ago

  7. very good review, keep it up!

  8. a period defining piece of work. i live my life to this cd. for me, L will go down as the greatest. fave track: danger zone. nice review btw

  9. fuck this review, one of the hottest cd's of all time. you did not personally know L, watch ya claims bitch

  10. Real good review. So refreshing to hear from someone who can actually write and who doesn't think Biggie Smalls is old skool. Well done. U Know yr hip hop and apparently, 'old skool' soul. ; )

  11. this album isnt out of print, i purchased this in FYE 2 weeks ago

  12. AnonymousJune 12, 2010

    overrated (mostly by 14 year old white boyz)

    1. Who the fuck does this bitch think he is? Overrated?? Big L is the best lyricist of all time! You must be on some whack ass shit

    2. Yeah, and i guess that's why Big Daddy Kane played a Big L track at his concert last week.

    3. I'm a 15 year old white boy who loves Big L but I don't think he's overrated, I just think he's awesome. He's not the GOAT but I love his style

  13. ^^OVERATED, WTF,i guess you don't know what you talkin about, yo fave rapper can't spit those dope rhyme schemes like L...PERIOD

  14. pretty whack review, some things made me giggle i guess. but L was definitely one of the best of all time and he deserves more props than you just gave him.

  15. ONE DOES NOT DISRESPECT THE L! I may just be a fanboy because he got me into rap. But this definently dosen't represent him properly. You have to accept that of course L dont eat out of the trashcans at abortion-clinics. Just like Celph Titled dont roll joints out of the holy scrolls god wrote the DNA on. It's just because it's fucking fun! It's violent and dumb, but with style!

  16. Given that i'm looking at my physical copy of this album right now i'm gonna say it's not out of print, and it's better than your review makes it out to be

  17. All time champ and punchline champ. 'I keep the gear fresh, I keep the braids rugged, I never wear rubbers bitch if I get a.i.d.s. FUCKIT!

  18. "I guess Murda Mase (which he was known as prior to switching up to Bad Boy’s shiny-suited Ma$e) was busy preaching the Word to Harlem World’s finest trannies)."

    gee, thanks for that, we totally needed the shitty transphobic bullshit here