In 1999, Lamont “Big L” Coleman was gunned down a block away from the intersection of 139th and Lenox, an area he often referred to as the “Danger Zone.” Although the neighborhood no longer looks or feels exactly like the one L often spoke about and ultimately died in, friends and family spent this past Saturday officially making it the late rapper’s forever home. L’s niece Laniqua Phinazee and his longtime collaborator Herb McGruff had been pushing the city for years to have the corner renamed for L. Days before what would have been his 47th birthday, it finally came to fruition. The eventual ceremony felt like an intimate family BBQ honoring a fallen son as Phinazee reminded those gathered that this was not just a celebration of life but a reminder of how much loss can occur from senseless gun violence.
Though Big L was responsible for one the best hip-hop albums of all time, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, his contributions to the genre have always been somewhat understated. L’s work would eventually pave the way for fellow Harlem artists Cam’ron, Ma$e, and A$AP Rocky, and rappers such as Jay-Z, Eminem, and Nas have noted how much Big L has influenced their music. (Upon hearing him for the first time, Nas says he was “scared to death.”) This past Saturday, Big L’s family, collaborators, and fans came to pay their respects to his legacy as well as trade stories and throw their L’s up. It was long overdue. — A.J.C.