Big L Digital Biography

Lamont Coleman - the rapper who was known as Big L was born on May 30 1974.  He was the third and youngest child of Gilda Terry (d. 2008) and Charles Davis. His father left the family while Coleman was a child. He has two siblings, Donald and Leroy Phinazee (d.2002), who were the children of Gilda Terry and Mr. Phinazee. Coleman received 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 neighborhood. Raised in Harlem's uptown sector "Danger Zone"----139th Street and Lennox Avenue, Big L was faced with the temptation's of the streets. Instead of living the street life he chose rap as a way out.  He founded a group called Three the Hard Way in 1990, but was quickly broken up due to a lack of enthusiasm. It consisted of Coleman, a "Doc Reem", and a "Rodney". No studio albums were released, and after Rodney left, the group was called Two Hard Motherfuckers. 

Around this time, people started to call him "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.

His first ever crack on wax came in 1992's "Yes You May (Remix)." Since then Big L has blessed the mic countless times with lyrics like no other.

In 1993 he signed with Columbia Records and released one of the illest records of underground hip-hop. The record was the vinyl, promo-only "Devil's Son." That song was quickly banned from radio, due to such lyrics as: "I pistol whip the priest every Sunday." With hardcore lyrics made for the fans and not radio, Big L proved himself as one of the kings of the underground. In 1995, still with Columbia, He released his debut album "Lifestylz Ov Da Poor & Dangerous." The album was commercially ignored, but praised by The Source magazine, who gave it 4 mics. The album was a lyrical masterpiece, and an underground success. That album put on a few now big name rappers, such as Jay-Z, and Cam'ron. After that album was released, L was dropped from Columbia.  One of his popular freestyles was the 7 minute freestyle on the Stretch & Bobbito Radio Show in NYC featuring Jay-Z who was not known as how he is now. Starting off his career he used to rap in the group "Children of the corn" with fellow Harlem residents Ma$e known then as Murda Ma$e, Cam'ron who was known as "Killa Cam" and Cam'ron's cousin "Bloodshed". They together recorded enough songs for a full length album but Bloodshed was tragically killed in a accident in 1997, while Ma$e and Cam'ron pursued their "hoop dreams" in both high school and college.

Even after being dropped, L was rising in the game. He, along with Show, AG, Buckwild, Lord Finesse, Fat Joe, OC, and Diamon D, formed the group D.I.T.C. (Diggin' In The Crates). They began popping up on mixtapes all around, and Big L was showcasing his lyrical ability on a whole new level. Concerts in Amsterdam, and Japan proved to others that Big L and D.I.T.C. were now worldwide and ready to blow up. Big L was now on the verge of releasing his best work. He got in the studio and recorded "Ebonics" a breakdown of street slang. That single was blowing up the streets, and people were starting to notice L. Unfortunately his success was cut short. Big L was murdered on the very streets where he grew up. He was shot 9 times in the head and chest on February 15, 1999.

In August of 2000 Big L's posthumous, sophomore album "The Big Picture" was released. Half the album was completed before his death, and half after his death. This album received more respect in terms of sales, and rotation. The album went gold, and was the first of his albums to do so. Collaborations on the album include Guru, D.I.T.C. and rap vets like Big Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap as well as the late Tupac Shakur.

Although Big L is no longer with us, His essence is still felt in the rap game, from his smart lyrics, to his deadly metaphors and his freestyling ability, Big L has opened the doors for a wave of rappers such as Mase, Jay-Z, Cam'ron and McGruff. Through his music Big L lives on, and should never be forgotten.

R.I.P. Lamont Coleman aka. Big L

-Harlem's Finest



Henry Adaso, a music journalist for, called him the twenty-third best MC of 1987 to 2007, claiming "[he was] one of the most auspicious storytellers in hip hop history." HipHop DX called Coleman "the most underrated lyricist ever".

Many tributes have been given to Coleman. The first was by Lord Finesse and the other members of DITC on March 6, 1999 at the Tramps. The Source has done multiple tributes to him: first in July 2000 followed by March 2002. XXL did a tribute to Lamont in March 2003. On February 16, 2005, at SOB's restaurant and nightclub in Manhattan, held a commemoration for him. It included special guests such as DITC, Herb McGruff, and Kid Capri. All the money earned went to his estate.


Coleman is often credited in helping to create the horrorcore genre of hip hop due to his 1992 song "Devil's Son." However, not all his songs fall into this genre, for example, in the song "Street Struck" Coleman discusses the difficulties of growing up in the ghetto and describes the consequences of living a life of crime. Idris Goodwin of The Boston Globe said, "[Big L had an] impressive command of the English language", and the best example was Coleman's song "Ebonics".

He was notable for using a rap style called "compounding". He also used one-liners: an example is in the song "'98 Freestyle" from The Big Picture where he raps "If my girl think I'm loyal, then that bitch is a fool." Coleman also used metaphors in his rhymes. M.F. DiBella of Allmusic stated Coleman was "a master of the lyrical stickup undressing his competition with kinetic metaphors and a brash comedic repertoire". On the review of The Big Picture, she adds "the Harlem MC as a master of the punch line and a vicious storyteller with a razor blade-under-the-tongue flow." Trent Fitzgerald of Allmusic said "a lyrically ferocious MC with raps deadlier than a snakebite and mannerisms cooler than the uptown pimp he claimed to be on records."


A movie title Street Struck: The Big L Story is set to be released in 2012. It is directed by a childhood friend and independent film director, Jewlz. Approximately nine hours of footage was brought in, and the film is planned to be 90 to 120 minutes long. The first trailer was released on August 29, 2009. Street Struck contains interviews from his mother Gilda Terry; his brother Donald; childhood friends E-Cash, D.O.C., McGruff, and Stan Spit; artists Mysonne and Doug E. Fresh; producers Showbiz and Premiere; and recording DJs Cipha Sounds and Peter Rosenberg. A soundtrack will be made for the documentary, and it will be put together by Lamont's brother Donald.


See More of the 90's Artists Collection 

photo credits include: rap quotes (jay shells), - M DOT, mtv