Review Summary: A solid enough debut hurt by an abundance of plodding beats and repetetive song ideas. Not a good representation of Big L's immense talent.1 of 4 thought this review was well written
The 1990's were a great time for hip-hop heads in New York, back when it was the breeding ground for hip-hop's boldest innovators. From Brooklyn's Notorious B.I.G. to Queensbridge's Nas to Big Pun in the Bronx, New York had the game locked.
Brooklyn was the borough getting the most shine, but one of New York's greatest lyricists was from the severely underrepresented Harlem - Lamont Coleman, to be know to the world as Big L.
L came up freestyling, making a name for himself battling before joining up with Fat Joe's DITC crew and setting the underground on fire.
Lifestyles Ov Da Poor & Dangerous is his debut, and the only album he completed before being shot fatally in his own Harlem Danger Zone neighborhood. It is hailed as his magnum opus, being followed by the half-completed album The Big Picture.
Lifestylez isn't quite a classic, but is still a treatt for any hip-hop head looking for a healthy dose of the grimy underground shit you just can't find nowadays.
The first song and single, "Put It On," is the best representation of L's gifts on the album, combining his punchline-laced, mile-a-minute flows with a shout-along chorus courtesy of Kid Capri and minimal beat by the same. The track is a classic, but casts a shadow over the rest of the album, which is stylistically consistent with "Put It On," but never manages to match its greatness.
From the second track, the quality has a noticable drop, with the follow-up, "MVP," showing a watered-down, auto-pilot Big L; things only get worse from there, with "No Endz, No Skinz" essentially being "Put It On" with different words in the chorus.
"8 Iz Enuff" recuperates, making New York history with - as the title suggests - 8 different MCs taking turns pounding the mic into submission, which they all do incredibly well. Here's the key part, though: among those MCs were Cam'ron and Jay-Z, making their first on-record appearances ever.
The 5 songs that follow are all anthems about how dangerous L and Harlem are. They are good in their own right, but all sort of bleed together because of how incredibly similar they sound.
"I Don't Understand It" is a warning shot to all up-and-coming rappers and a song mourning the mainstream's ability to appreciate the real hip-hop L so well embodies. It's followed by a song lamenting police brutality, an idea without much real bite because it's a theme L has already explored repeatedly throughout the album.
Overall, it's an album full of L's trademark wit (see "Da Graveyard"'s bost that L pumps his enemies full of enough lead that "they could use they dick as a pencil") and some reasonably good freestyle flows, but boring, incredibly repetitive beats and themes will alienate anyone not buying it to hear a few good punchlines.
Ultimately, it's a good album, it doesn't come close to realizing L's huge potential.