(Credit: Columbia)

Old School Archives

Listen back to Big L in his classic 1998 freestyle

Big L was considered one of the greatest rappers in New York during the late 1990s. Along with artists such as Big Pun and The Notorious B.I.G, the Harlem native was undeniably one of the best emcees in New York.

With Big Pun representing The Bronx, Biggie representing Brooklyn, Nas representing Queens and the Wu-Tang Clan representing Staten Island, Big L was, without question, the primary representative for Manhattan when it came to rap. 

Big L created some amazing music during his career with his debut album Lifestyle Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, setting a precedent in hip hop for quality albums. Big L helped launch the careers of rappers who achieved vast amounts of success, including Ma$e and Cam’Ron as the founder of the Harlem rap crew Children of the Corn. 

Big L came up under the wing of Lord Finesse (one of Lloyd Banks’ Top five punchline rappers), so it’s no wonder he went from a young prodigy to a lyrical god. In fact, while affiliated with Finesse, though only for a short period of time, L was in the same crew as Fat Joe as part of the Diggin’ In The Crates Crew. However, Joe would then go on to form the Terror Squad. 

Big L, while getting some much-needed media attention and exposure thanks to Lord Finesse, ended up signing to Columbia Records and would become Known for his elite use of wordplay and be certified as one of the most auspicious storytellers in hip hop history. 

In 1996 due to ongoing creative differences and friction, Big L would part ways with Columbia and go independent. For two years, L continued to release music before creating his own record label Flamboyant Entertainment on which he released his legendary single, ‘Ebonics’. Off the back of this single, Dame Dash now had his eye on Big L and was ready to sign him to Roc-a-Fella. After much deliberation in early February of 1999, L began the process of signing to Roc-a-Fella.

However, in mid-February of 1999, while out in Harlem on 139th street, Big L was murdered in a drive-by shooting. One of the rapper’s friends was charged with the murder, but with a lack of evidence to sentence, to this day, the murder is officially unsolved, and no one has been sentenced as guilty of the rapper’s murder.  

Although Big L was only 24 and was just getting started, he left behind a wonderful catalogue of official releases and tonnes of unofficial freestyles. Below you can listen back to his ‘98 freestyle which was recorded during L’s appearance on the ‘Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show’ a NYC local radio show.