Filed under: Features,Great Moments In Rap,Interviews,Rest In Peace,The 90's Files,Unkut Retrospective,Uptown Kicking It
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Just read this wonderfully comprehensive feature on Big L over at Complex, titled Casualty of the Game: The Big L Story, and was inspired to collate a few stories of my own from past interviews. T-Ray, Peter Oasis, Milano and AG all share some memories involving The Devil’s Son…
T-Ray: I produced his first appearance ["Yes, You May" remix], but Finesse really had Big L. It was Finesse’s session and Big L was coming down, so I ended up producing his first session because I was doing the track, but it wasn’t like I discovered Big L. What happened is that I had another beat that Finesse wanted me to loop up for him. I didn’t like the way the beat he wanted sounded. I had brought a bunch of records with me, and I said, “Yo Finesse, I got somethin’ right here man. I’m actually thinking about hookin’ it up, it’s supposed to be for Biz but if you want it I’ll give it to you for this, ’cause it would work perfectly for this.” So basically, I hooked-up the beat right there in the studio. That final is not even a final, what people hear on that record – that was just a rough mix! I made that beat in about 30 minutes in the studio. Finesse went through his book of rhymes to figure out what rhyme he was droppin’, and Big L came in and I said, “Yo, kick me what rhyme you wanna do.” It was his first time in the studio so he was really green, he was new, and he kicked me his rhyme and it was like, “Oh, this is great!” Percee was actually supposed to come down and be on that, but he didn’t end-up makin’ it. I just threw that beat together, that’s why in the chorus when it goes to the [does the horn part] there’s nothin’ on it! I intended to throw some more shit on top of that, but Finesse had a deadline that he didn’t tell me about. So he just ended up sending it to his A&R and they just pressed it up and put it out!
AG: Big L is doing his album and he’s doing the song “Da Graveyard” with Jay-Z, Microphone Nut and Grand Daddy IU. I was the other person on that song, and I pulled L into the other room and said, “Do me a favor – take me off the song and put my man Party Arty on the song.” He’s like, “You’re buggin’!” Show flipped on me, “Yo, what are you doing?” I’m like, “Hear my man out.” He hears him spit one time and he’s like, “All good.” That’s how Party Arty got on that “Graveyard” record, because I felt in my heart this dude might be better than me! Not to be disrespectful in any way, but if you listen the song he sounds way better than Jay-Z. I’m trying to show you how advanced he was at that time.
Peter Oasis: The other show which stands out more than any show was when Big L was murdered. I had gotten a phone call from Finesse on the day that Big L was killed. I wasn’t heavy on the internet then, I got the news like everyone else by listening to Hot 97. I got a phone call from Finesse – I remember exactly where I was in my mother’s bedroom back in my house in Queens – he spoke for about an hour and a half. he was like, “Listen, I just lost my brother Big Pun, and now I lost Big L. I‘m gonna go back and ask everyone in the crew if they still wanna do this show.” ‘Cos we had a show that was advertised, it was a Diggin’ In The Crates show with everyone in the crew – including Big L. We had to go back and revise the flyers, and a Diggin In The Crates show became a tribute show for their brother Big L. And from that show came the intro to the the Gang Starr album, “Big L – Rest In Peace!” Premier was on the turntables all night long, said, “Put Your L’s Up! Big L Rest In Peace!” Over and over. I remember Fat Joe rolled up with fifty soldiers – like deep – they stood on line like soldiers, he came in, he wrecked his set. He ran through fifteen to twenty minutes of it and tore the club down. When “Flow Joe” started to play, people just erupted! You could feel the floor. I think I may have done one of Big L’s last shows – he came out during a Brand Nubian show at Tramps and did two or three songs. He was supposed to come back again on the Diggin’ show and he never made it, and it’s pretty sad.
Milano: I wasn’t around L as frequent, but the times I was I seen him do a verse in five minutes. I’m like, “That’s impossible!” I was actually in D&D, and we were upstairs. He come in and he was like, “Yo! I gotta do a verse!” We were like, “We’re leaving,” and he was like, “I’ll be out in five minutes.” He comes down in five minutes, and I’m like, “Did you do the verse?” and he’s like, “Yeah, ad-libs and everything”. I heard the song the next day and I was like, “He did that? He’s a fuckin’ beast!” Just being around people like that, you’ve gotta keep your sword so very sharp.
T-Ray: I keep a picture of Big L on my mixing board every day. He called me and he wanted me to bring him some beats – this was long after the first record and shit – and he lived way uptown. I had a brand new Landcruiser at the time and I took my whole family with me, my wife and my two little kids – a little boy and a little girl. Now they’re in the backseat in car seats, I drive up to fuckin’ meet L in front of his buildin’, call him up and his mom answers. He comes running down, I’ll never forget, he had a big fluffy coat on – I think it was red – he leaned into my window, we kicked it for a minute and it was just like, “Yo, thanks for coming out T!” He couldn’t have been more cool, this man could not have been as innocent, as happy… it was just a moment of us talking about beats, rhymes. No gangster, killer, fuckin’ drug dealer shit! I mean in his rhymes he always talks a lotta shit, I’m just saying though – at that moment the essence of who he was, was just a young man who loved rhyming, who loved beats, lived in not the best area – but not the worst, either. I give him the cassette, I pull off – I don’t get two blocks down and two or three undercover cop cars pull me over, forcing me off the road! Not only forcing me off the road, but four or five cops get out with their guns drawn, pointed right at my head. My kids are in the backseat, my wife is next to me, and they’ve got guns pointed at my wife from her side, pointed at my head! These guns are loaded, man! You know what they said to me? “What are you doing here?!” I was like “What am I doing here?! What the fuck are you doing with this gun pointed at me? I’m a producer, that’s a rapper, we’re talking music – what the fuck are you doing?” Then they said, “Just last week, seven people were shot right on that block! That kid that you were talking to is a known cocaine dealer!” I’m like, “Man, will you shut up! That is Big L! We’re trying to become famous!” Just what you hear him rapping about [on "The Enemy"]. He’s rhyming about how these Federals won’t get off his back – that is the fucking truth! I never really got the full low-down on why he got killed, but those cops and all that fake bullshit that’s going on in the world – that had a lot to do with it. There was no reason for that man to die.
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