(photo credit: Destiny Mata)
It’s been more than a decade since the hip-hop world lost Lamont “Big L” Coleman to street violence. Born and raised in Harlem, L’s influence on the Uptown rap scene can still be felt today, as he schooled MCs like Mase and Cam’Ron and on the art of rhyme.
With his second posthumous album, Return of the Devil’s Son, scheduled for release a Nov. 23 release, VIBE located Big L’s oldest brother Donald Phinazee—who is executive producing the project—to shed some light on the new album, the real Big L, his relationship with fellow Children of the Corn members, and how close L really was to signing with Jay-Z. ⎯Mikey Fresh
VIBE: How close were you with Big L?
Donald Phinazee: We’re six years apart in age, and I’m the oldest out of my three brothers. L was the youngest and Big Lee was the middle child. We grew up in the same house, taking baths together as babies and everything. You can’t get no closer than that. People used to think we were triplets. Me, Lee and Lamont⎯my moms used to dress us all alike.
And you were the one to introduce L to hip-hop?
Yeah, I was always into hip-hop since the beginning, and I remember getting tickets to Run-DMC’s King of Rock tour. I was supposed to roll with my man, but he backed out at the last minute. Now, at this point already, our mother had bought us DJ equipment and L was already on the mic all the time with his little rhymes. So I decided to take him along with me. I remember security didn’t even want to let him in because he was too young. But I got him in and the expression on his face when Run-DMC hit the stage was like nothing I’ve ever seen on him before. Eyes and mouth wide open. L was like seven years old at the time. After that it was all history.
You’re gearing up to release L’s 2nd posthumous LP. How much of Return of the Devil’s Son is actually unreleased material?
The album itself has all new production and there are definitely some unheard vocals on there. Lord Finesse, Buckwild are just a few of the producers who worked on this project. Big L was always years ahead of hip-hop, musically. All Big L fans will appreciate this album. Even the lyrics you heard already have all been fully mastered.
So it sounds like this is something for L’s real fans.
Word, some of the records have been leaked and were released overseas, but never in this format. Royal Flush and Kool G Rap are the only guest features, so the majority of the project is L by himself. Fans are going to love this. J-Love sequenced the record, and it plays almost like a timeline of L’s career. And we have more to come.
Can you remember being with L when he originally recorded any of these tracks?
Nah, I was locked up when L recorded most of his material. But I do remember him writing rhymes since he could walk.
How old was he when you first heard him rap?