Rapper Big L met his untimely death at 24 after being shot by an assailant. Years later, his accused murderer met his own end in very similar circumstances.
The American rap industry is rife with high-profile assassinations of some of the best rappers the world has ever witnessed, such as 2Pac Shakur to Biggie Smalls. Many more rappers have lost their lives in their prime, and one of those is Lamont Coleman, who was known professionally as Big L.
Big L was an American rapper and songwriter who emerged from Harlem, New York City, in the early to mid-1990s. He became popular amongst underground hip-hop fans for his ability to freestyle with ease.
Big L in his official music video No Endz, No Skinz. | Photo: YouTube/Big L
He signed with Columbia Records and released his debut album, "Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous," in 1995. A year later, he was dropped from Columbia Records due to his rapping style and the company's production.
Commenting on his departure from Columbia Records, the rapper said he was on the record label with a bunch of strangers who did not really know his music.
Big L at The Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago, Illinois on April 1, 1995 | Photo: Getty Images
In 1997, Big L began work on his second studio album titled "The Big Picture." His Harlem rap group, Children of the Corn (COC), which he founded, folded after one of its members died in a car accident.
In 1998, Big L formed his own independent label called Flamboyant Entertainment. That same year, he released the single "Ebonics," which was critically acclaimed.
Woodley was later released because of a lack of evidence.
DITC, a hip-hop collective he was a part of, also released its first single, "Dignified Soldiers," in 1998. Following the release of "Ebonics," Roc-A-Fella Records CEO Damon Dash was impressed by Big L's talent and wanted to sign him. However, Big L wanted his crew to sign.
On February 8, 1999, Big L, Jay-Z, Herb McGruff, and C-Town began the process to sign with Roc-A-Fella Records. They planned to sign as a group named The Wolfpack.
At about 8:30 p.m. on February 15, 1999, Big L met his untimely death after being shot nine times in the face and chest in a drive-by shooting. The shooting occurred at 45 West 139th Street in Harlem.
Three months after Big L's death, one of his childhood friends, Gerard Woodley, was arrested as a suspect in his assassination.
A spokesperson for the New York City Police Department said it was possible the shooting was a retaliation for something Big L's brother did or Woodley thought he had done.
Woodley was later released due to a lack of evidence. Big L was buried at the George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, New Jersey.
Although Big L died in tragic circumstances at 24, he predicted how he would die in his lyrics to the song, "Casualties Of A Dice Game."
Speaking about Big L's legacy, Lord Sear said the slain rapper needs to be talked about more.
In June 2016, Woodley, Big L's accused murderer, was shot and killed in Harlem in the same location the rapper was killed 17 years before.
A source said Woodley did many bad things, and someone decided it was time for him to go. Police sources also said Woodley feared his alleged misdeeds would eventually catch up to him.
Woodley was shot in the back and head during a clash that took place in front of his home, which was the exact location Big L was killed.
Since his early demise in 1999, questions have been asked about Big L's legacy. In a Rolling Stone article, Elias Leight revealed the deceased rapper's recordings had been sold off seemingly for less than their worth.
Also, there had been discord over his estate, which highlighted a bigger question of who should benefit from an artist's work. However, there is no question about Big L's rap legacy as he impacted Jay-Z, Mac Miller, and many more rappers, who carried on his legacy.
Big L had a punchline-driven, multisyllabic rhyme style, which laid a blueprint for many that came after him. Jay-Z and other rappers have praised him for the influence he had on them.
Jay-Z revealed Roc-A-Fella was about to sign Big L right before his death and that it was a done deal. He described him as a talented artist with an ability to write big records and big choruses.
Mac Miller, who died in September 2018 due to an accidental overdose, also said Big L inspired him to be clever and witty, adding that he was trying to be like him in the early stages of his rap career.
A$AP Rocky said he got his knack for wearing Cartier frames and feeling himself from Big L while Nas confessed that the latter scared him to death after he heard him on tape. Immediately, he knew there was no way he could compete with him.
Rap legends remembered Big L on the 20th anniversary of his death in 2019. In a chat with Vibe.com, several legends of the rap game discussed several aspects of Big L.
O.C. said Big L's death was unexpected and put a black cloud over their collective as he was on his way to greatness. Showbiz said everyone was numb as that was the last thing they expected or dreamed of.
Speaking about Big L's legacy, Lord Sear said the slain rapper needs to be talked about more and not just on his birthday or the day he died.
Sauce Money described him as the Gale Sayers of hip-hop as he had a short but brilliant career and could have been one of the greats if he were alive.
O.C. said Big L had his own path that people would have gravitated towards. He said he was not an underground rapper as people always say, as it is no mean feat to sell half a million records, which Big L did.
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