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Sunday, November 8, 2015

BIG L - "I Shoulda Used A Rubba" [CDQ]

Despite only completing one album in full during his tragically short life the legacy of Lamont Coleman, better known to the world as Big L, will always be that of one of the wittiest, most charismatic and technical emcees ever to step footh inside a recording booth. As part of the D.I.T.C. crew and an understudy of Lord Finesse, the young Coleman hung around recording sessions with several industry heavyweights like Freddie Foxxx, Large Professor, Diamond D and DJ Jazzy Jay, while planning his own future LP debut. His shot came when L was signed to Columbia Records (on the strength of his bugged out Showbiz produced demo "Devil's Son") on the very same day as another young aspiring emcee by the name of Nas. Throughout 1993 Big L recorded his debut album which was to be called "Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous". Using dark hardcore beats with pouncing rhythm, grooving basslines and agressive horn stabs chopped up from long forgotten jazz records by Showbiz, Lord Finesse and Buckwild, the sound complimented Big L's often hilarious, often shocking and always on point lyrics to a Tee. The problem was that Columbia kept pushing the LP back as they had more faith in other artists on the roster such as Nas, Fugees and Cypress Hill which meant L had to take a backseat and sit on his material. A whole year before "Lifestylez..." was finally released a promotional cassette containing a full LP was released to selected magazines and radio stations. Hip Hop, by then still a relative young phenomenon, was in a constant state of change and elevation and sometime during '94, L even begged permission from his label to remix and update some of the material on the LP to make it sound current against competition from popular New York artists like Raekwon, Notorious BIG and Mobb Deep. The answer was a negative one, which left L with a debut album partly recorded as early as the beginning of 1993. Had "Lifestylez..." been released in January 1994 I think Big L might have had a very different career over at Columbia. It's interesting to note that they decided to go with the Summer Smooth Remix by producer Selah for the "M.V.P." video, a song much more in line with the times of 1995 - yet it sounds like nothing else on the actual album.

The last tracks that had been recorded for the album was "MVP" and "Street Struck", which were both created in the same session and especially in the case of the former it does sound more in line with where hip-hop was at in early '95 than a song like "I Don't Understand It". As L couldn't remix or update the sounds of any song he instead opted to delete certain tracks from inclusion on the final version. "Devil's Son" (click to download) had already been available since early 1993 and considering its shocking subject matter it worked better as a promotional introduction to the world than an album cut. The Lord Finesse produced "School Daze" (click to download) was not only one of the joints from the very earliest Columbia sessions, the rhymes were Coleman "reminisces" about his school days were probably written while L was still in school, and would have sounded dated had it been released in late '93. However, the two remaining tracks that appeared on the original promo cassette but failed to materialize on the retail release are another story altogether. "I Shoulda Used A Rubba" and "Timez Iz Hard..." (both produced by Buckwild) were to my ears just as potent and in line with the hardcore boom bap vibe of the album as anything on there. For years low quality rips of these four songs have circulated on mixtapes, bootlegs and on the net. Unfortunately even the semi-official compilation "Return Of The Devil's Son" failed to produce decent sounding versions of these joints (matter of fact, avoid this compilation at all cost). However it has come to my knowledge that the Japanese CD edition of "Lifestylez..." actually included "I Shoulda Used A Rubba" (sometimes known as "Clinic") as a bonus track. So after the original pressing was reissued in Japan in 2010 a rip of said bonus tracks has popped up on the internet. Finally hearing this classic lost Big L track in its full glory, properly mixed, mastered and in a high quality rip is pure bliss for a D.I.T.C./Big L fan, now let us just hope an equally good version of "Timez Iz Hard..." will get a proper release. Much thanks to whoever ripped this "Clinic" originally (as I got it in the mail by friend I have no idea who to credit); I also added a decent rip of "Timez Iz Hard..." for your listening pleasure.

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