Big L

Birth name

Lamont Coleman


30 May 1974

  • Harlem, New York City, USA


Harlem, New York City, USA


15 February 1999 (aged 24)

  • Harlem, New York City, USA


Hip hop



Years active



Columbia, Sony, Flamboyant Entertainment, Rawkus

Associated acts

D.I.T.C., Children of the Corn, Gang Starr, Jay-Z, Shyheim, Miss Jones

Lamont Coleman (30 May 1974 - 15 February 1999), better known by stage name Big L, was an American rapper. Coleman was born and raised in Harlem, New York, where he started his rapping career with Three the Hard Way. His first professional appearance came on Lord Finesse's "Yes You May (Remix)". He released his debut album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous in 1995, and significantly contributed to the undergrond hip hop scene. He created his own independent label, Flamboyant Entertainment, where he released one of his best known singles "Ebonics" in 1998.

On 15 February 1999, Coleman was killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Harlem. His second studio album, The Big Picture, was put together by Coleman's manager, Rich King. It was released the following year and was certified gold.

Four posthumous albums have been released, mainly consisting of unreleased songs which were put together by Rich King and his brother, Donald. Multiple tributes have been given to Coleman, including in The Source, MTV and HipHop DX. A documentary is being made called Street Struck: The Big L Story and is set to be released in 2013. called him the twenty-third best MC of all time.

Early life

Coleman was born in Harlem, New York on 30 May 1974 as the youngest and third child of Gilda Terry (d. 2008) and Charles Davis. His father left the family when Coleman was a child. His two siblings are Donald and Leroy "Big Lee" Phinazee, with the latter murdered in 1999. Coleman recieved the nicknames "Little L" and "'mont 'mont" as a child. At the age of 12, Coleman became a big hip hop fan and started freestyling against his own neighbourhood. He founded a group called Three the Hard Way in 1990, but was quickly broken up due to a lack of enthusiam. It consisted of Coleman, Doc Reem, and Rodney. No studio albums were released, and after Rodney left, the group was called Two Hard Motherfuckers. Around this time, people started calling Coleman "Big L". In the summer of 1990, Coleman met Lord Finesse at an autograph session in a record shop on 125th Street. After he did a freestyle, Finesse and Coleman exchanged numbers.

Coleman attended Julia Richman High School. While in high school, Coleman freestyle battled in his hometown; in his last interview he stated, "In the beginning, all I ever saw me doing was battling everybody on the street corners, rhyming in the hallways, beating on the wall, rhyming to my friends. Every now and then, a house party, grab the mic, a block party, grab the mic." He graduated in 1992.

Professional career

1991-1994: Beginnings

Coleman began rhyming in 1990. In 1991, he founded the Harlem rap group Children of the Corn with Killa Cam, Murda Mase, and Bloodshed. On 11 Feburary, Coleman appeared on Yo! MTV Raps with Lord Finesse to help promote Finesse's studio album Return of the Funky Man. Coleman's first professional appearance came on "Yes You May (Remix)", the B-side of "Party Over Here" (1992) by Lord Finesse, and his first album appearance was on "Represent" off of Showbiz & A.G.'s Runaway Slave (1992). In that same year, he won an amateur freestyle battle, which consisted of about 2,000 contestants and held by Nubian Productions. In 1993, Coleman signed to Columbia Records. Around this time, L joined Lord Finesse's Bronx-based hip hop collective Diggin' in the Crates Crew which consisted of Lord Finesse, Diamond D, O.C., Fat Joe, Buckwild, Showbiz, and A.G.

Sometime in 1993, Coleman released his first promotional single, "Devil's Son", and claimed it was the first horrorcore single released. He said he wrote the song because "I've always been a fan of horror flicks. Plus the things I see in Harlem are very scary. So I just put it all together in a rhyme." On 18 February 1993, Coleman performed live at the Uptown Lord Finesse Birthday Bash at the 2,000 Club, which included performances from Fat Joe, Nas, and Diamond D. In 1994, he released his second promotional single "Clinic". On 11 July 1994, Coleman released the radio edit of "Put It On" featuring Kid Capri, and three months later the music video was released. In 1995, the video for the single "No Endz, No Skinz" debuted, which was directed by Brian Luvar.

1995-1999: Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous

His debut solo album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, was released in March 1995. The album debuted at number 149 on the Billboard 200 and number 22 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop AlbumsLifestylez would go on to sell 200,000 copies as of 2000. Three singles would be released from the album; "Put It On" and "M.V.P.", reached the top twenty-five of Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks and the third "No Endz, No Skinz" did not chart.

In 1996, Coleman was dropped from Columbia because of the dispute between Coleman's rapping style and the production from Columbia. In 1997, he started working on his second studio album, The Big Picture. Children of the Corn disbanded after the death of Bloodshed in a car accident on 2 March 1997. In 1998, Coleman formed his own independent label, Flamboyant Entertainment. He also released the single "Ebonics" in 1998; The Source called it one of the top five independent singles of the year. DITC released their first single, "Dignified Soldiers" that year.

Coleman caught the eye of Damon Dash, the CEO of Roc-A-Fella Records, after the release of "Ebonics". Dash wanted to sign him to Roc-A-Fella, but Coleman wanted his friends to sign with him. On 8 February 1999, Coleman, Herb McGruff, C-Town and Jay-Z started the process to sign with Roc-A-Fella Records as a group called "The Wolfpack".


Coleman was killed in the doorway of 45 West 139th Street in Harlem on 15 February 1999 after being shot nine times in the face and chest. Gerard Woodley, one of Coleman's childhood friends, was arrested in May for the crime but was later released. The murder case remaons unsolved.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.