Big L

The Big Picture (1974-1999)

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The second and final album from the late Big L showcases the Harlem MC as a master of the punch line and a vicious storyteller with a razor blade-under-the-tongue flow. Unfortunately, despite a well-meant effort from Rawkus Records, The Big Picture fails to capture Big L's underground legacy. A member of the New York underground collective's Diggin' in the Crates crew, L's 1995 debut on Columbia Records, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, was met with a lukewarm response despite his rugged talents. As a result, Big L was dropped from Columbia primarily because Lifestylez lacked the supersonic production to match his rough, witty style. On The Big Picture, even with a few production heavyweights in on the project, the production is again suspect. The album billed as a classic has merely the makings of one, all-star producers like Pete Rock and Premier and heavyweight guest appearances including a duet with another fallen rap star, 2Pac. There are about five good tracks on the album, two of which are spectacular: "Flamboyant" over a soulful bump provided by Mike Heron is the heavy-hitter on the album followed closely in quality by the flute-laced "Holdin' It Down" produced by Pete Rock and featuring A.G. "Ebonics" is L's clever slang dictionary and the two DJ Premier-produced tracks, "Platinum Plus" featuring Big Daddy Kane and "The Enemy" featuring Fat Joe, are also worthy of note. Here is an underground king that finds only slight aboveground success posthumously. Rawkus' scramble to compile new and old tracks into a cohesive product proved too difficult a task. In the end, there is too much gloss on this undergrounder's parting project; The Big Picture does not do justice to Big L. Big L may be remembered as a gifted MC who put out mediocre albums but he will not be forgotten by hip-hop fans on the strength of his underground legacy and respect. Big L (1974-1999) was gunned down in his own Harlem neighborhood in early 1999.

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