Harlem’s own, the late and great Big L, was a lyrical titan who masterfully painted vivid images of street life with his rhymes. Known for his venomous punchlines and intricate wordplay, L made a name for himself with influential records such as “Put It On” and “MVP,” both lethal cuts off his debut studio album, “Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous.” His posthumous releases, including “The Big Picture,” kept the fire of his legacy burning, solidifying his position as a hip-hop icon.
Big L’s flow was as smooth as butter, pouring his soul into each bar, making even the roughest tales of the concrete jungle sound captivating. The combination of his fearless lyricism and raw storytelling cemented him as one of the greatest, with tracks like “Street Struck,” “Flamboyant,” and the ominously titled “Deadly Combination,” a gritty duet with none other than hip-hop legend 2Pac himself.
Yet, despite his tragic passing at the zenith of his career, Big L has left behind a discography that continues to intrigue and impress long-time fans and newcomers alike. His music is a blueprint of his soul, capturing the pulse of his neighborhood, his life, his struggle, and ultimately, his undeniable talent. Each song is a testament to the depth and breadth of his impact on hip-hop, establishing him as an artist of the streets, for the streets.
So let’s get into it. From the somber “Tornado” to the legendary “Girl Crush,” here our select of the bestBig L Songs of all time, including collabs.
15. The Triboro
Bringing together Big L, Fat Joe, and Remy Ma, representing different boroughs of New York City. The track is a celebration of the city’s diverse hip-hop landscape, with each artist bringing their unique flavor, style, and narrative to the table. Big L, with his impeccable flow and sharp punchlines, sets the tone, while Fat Joe and Remy Ma add their distinct voices, painting a vivid picture of NYC’s streets, hustle, and culture. The beat, gritty and raw, complements the trio’s verses, making “The Triboro” a testament to the unity, diversity, and unmatched talent that the city’s hip-hop scene has to offer. It’s a nod to the roots, the boroughs, and the unbreakable bond that ties the artists to their city.
14. Size ‘Em Up
Quintessential Big L, where he flexes his lyrical muscles and showcases why he’s considered one of the best to ever touch the mic. The beat, with its classic boom-bap essence, serves as the perfect canvas for Big L’s intricate wordplay and punchlines. Throughout the track, he sizes up the competition, asserting his dominance and making it clear that few, if any, can match his skills. It’s a testament to Big L’s confidence in his craft, his unwavering belief in his talent, and his ability to stand tall in a game filled with giants. The track remains a staple for hip-hop purists, a reminder of Big L’s unparalleled skill and timeless legacy.
13. All Black
A testament to Big L’s lyrical prowess and his ability to paint vivid pictures with words. The track, with its haunting beat, delves deep into the gritty realities of street life. Big L’s bars, sharp and unfiltered, narrate tales of survival, hustle, and the dark aspects of urban existence, making it a standout in his discography.
12. No Endz, No Skinz
Word up, let’s lay down some knowledge about the quintessential Harlem anthem, “No Endz, No Skinz.” Coming off Big L’s groundbreaking 1995 debut, “Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous,” this joint not only confirms the emcee’s ferocious lyrical prowess, but also his acute observations about life on the streets. L breaks down the real hustle, flipping the script on the age-old debate about money over women, stating “aight, no dough, no show.” The flamboyant MC paints a grim yet lucid picture of the cold streets of Harlem, reminding us that in his world, respect is currency and charm ain’t worth nada without the paper. Yet, L isn’t being judgmental, he’s merely narrating, giving us a peek into his world, making it a crucial part in understanding Big L’s legacy.
Aight, let’s break down “Flamboyant”, one of Big L’s most iconic cuts. Released posthumously in 2000, this single saw L spittin’ some raw bars, reminding us that this MC was straight outta the School of Hard Knocks. His lyrics were tight, uncompromising, and rife with double entendres. L slayed the beat on “Flamboyant” like a seasoned samurai, delivering a timeless critique of industry fakes. He was painting a gritty picture of the streets of Harlem, cementing his place in the pantheon of great lyricists. This track oozed of sheer charisma and remarkable wordplay that L was known for, proving that even in death, L’s flame was still burning bright. “Flamboyant” is a potent testament to Big L’s unrivaled rawness and undisputed talent. Straight fire, no doubt.
10. Street Struck
A standout cut that showcases Big L’s formidable talent. It’s a stark narrative of street survival, a common theme in Big L’s discography. Bitin’ with distinctively vivid lyrical prowess, L depicts the gritty realities of Harlem life, toeing the line between being ‘street smart’ and ‘street struck’. The production, too, is fire – ice-cold beats blend with sinister guitar notes, conjuring images of shadowy figures and rain-slicked Harlem streets. But it’s L’s extraordinary wordplay and intricate flow that steals the show, gripping listeners with a storyteller’s skill. Bottom line, “Street Struck” exemplifies Big L’s raw essence that reverberates throughout East Coast hip-hop, cementing his place as a real torchbearer of the game. Word.
9. Fall Back
Featuring Kool G Rap, is a track that underscores Big L’s dominance in the rap scene. The song, with its assertive bars and confident flow, serves as a warning to competitors, emphasizing that when Big L steps to the mic, others should “fall back” and recognize his prowess.
8. Fed Up wit the Bullsh#t
Showcasing Big L’s frustration and disdain for the challenges and betrayals he faced. His flow, aggressive and relentless, underscores the emotions of being at the end of one’s tether, making it a raw and authentic reflection of his experiences.
A classic cut from Big L’s debut album “Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous”, is pure, uncut, Harlem flamboyance. The ’90s banger showcases Big L’s lyrical prowess as he paints a vivid, braggadocious picture of his life, both the highs and lows, with slick punchlines and a smooth delivery that will have you nodding your head in agreement. The production, courtesy of the legendary Lord Finesse, provides a rich, soulful backdrop that allows the lyricism to shine. It’s Big L in his element, no doubt. Yet, the song also serves as a reminder of what the Harlem MC could have achieved had his promising career not been cut short. This track ain’t just Most Valuable Player, it’s Most Valuable Poetry.
6. 98 Freestyle
This joint is an undiluted display of Big L’s lyrical prowess. He ain’t need no hooks or choruses here, just him spittin’ bars that were sinister, comic, topical, and always impeccably timed. It’s gritty, it’s edgy, it’s verbal graffiti, and it’s Harlem on wax, baby! It’s like dude had the entire English language at his disposal, shaping it like clay into a murderous, braggadocious mural. A quintessential example of 90’s East Coast hip-hop, this freestyle was an open declaration; Big L was an apex predator in the rap game. Some might argue that it’s criminally low on our list, but hey, let’s keep it moving. There’s more dopeness up ahead!
5. The Enemy (feat. Fat Joe)
Released off Big L’s posthumous album, “The Big Picture,” this joint is a Hip-Hop gem, no two ways about it. Big L and Fat Joe going back and forth on the track captures the essence of true East Coast hip-hop, bringing the streets of their respective hoods straight to your headphones. Now listen, L was already a lyrical warrior, but pairing him up with Fat Joe, a Bronx titan? That’s some heavyweight stuff right there. Both deliver killer verses over a Showbiz produced track that captures that gritty 90s boom-bap sound to perfection. It’s a shame Big L’s career was cut short, ’cause “The Enemy” shows he had enough game to go shoulder-to-shoulder with the best MCs in the game.
One of Big L’s most iconic tracks, “Ebonics” is a linguistic masterclass. The song breaks down street slang, providing definitions for urban terms, showcasing Big L’s genius in crafting a track that’s both educational and hard-hitting, highlighting the rich vernacular of the streets.
3. Platinum Plus
A collab with Big Daddy Kane that exudes confidence and swagger. The track, brimming with braggadocious bars, is a celebration of their lyrical abilities and their place in the rap game. Both MCs deliver with finesse, making it a classic in hip-hop circles.
2. Deadly Combination (feat. 2Pac)
Aight, so we at number 5 on the countdown with “Deadly Combination,” a joint that got Big L trading bars with none other than 2Pac. This track right here, it exemplifies what we lost with the departure of these two giants from the game. L’s slick Harlem flow meshes perfectly with Pac’s raw West Coast energy, resulting in a truly deadly combination indeed. Even amidst the coastal beef happening at the time, this collaboration stands as a monument to unity in hip-hop. Both lyrical titans spit fire about the harsh realities of the streets, each with their distinct style. The track’s no-frills, boom-bap beat lets their rhymes take center stage. An undeniable classic, for sure.
1. Put It On
A cornerstone track off Big L’s debut album “Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous”, “Put It On” is a strong testament to this man’s lyrical prowess and enduring legacy. Produced by the mastermind Buckwild, this beat pulsates with that signature East Coast vibe. And Big L? His flow is astoundingly precise, turning seemingly simplistic rhymes into profound statements. As this song has aged, it’s crystal clear how it helped position Big L as one of Harlem’s top tier lyricists. Yet, compared to some of his other bangers, this joint doesn’t have quite the same rawness or depth. But let’s be real, even at his ‘worst,’ Big L is miles ahead of most.