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Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous

by Big L

Released March 28, 1995 via Columbia Records

Originally reviewed on March 26, 2020

Top tracks (based on community voting)
Put It On (47%), MVP (31%), Da Graveyard (26%)

In 1995, sprouting out of the crooked streets of Harlem came one of the most prodigious MCs to ever grace the mic. Big L’s debut album, Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, was quite simply a masterclass in lyricism and wordplay, and ensured his name would be etched in hip-hop history even if he never released a follow-up. It was crucial in the rise of horrorcore, with the self-proclaimed “Devil’s Son” delivering some of the most wicked bars ever put on wax. On top of that, L’s method is impossible to hate as he infuses humor alongside shock value, packaged with intricate rhyme schemes, and all wrapped inside such a charismatic delivery. And the grimy, harrowing instrumentals – largely handled by fellow members of The Diggin’ In Crates Crew Buckwild, Lord Finesse, and Showbiz – create an atmosphere that sounds like a score to a stormy Harlem night in which Big L is lurking in the shadows, eagerly waiting to pounce on his next victim. – Dominick (10/10)

There's no way around it, Big L was unparalleled when it came to technical skill on the mic, and his superior talent is plastered all over his debut album. "Lifestylez..." is a staple of '90s hip hop that cycles ironhard punchlines through its cylinder until the clip is empty. Killer posse cuts stuffed with urban anarchism give way to mature jewel-droppers on the tail-end offering a redemptive conclusion. 25 years later, it's evidently cuffed to the era that birthed it but still stands as a cornerstone of New York hip hop nonetheless. R.I.P. Big L – Enth (8.5/10)

An artist can feel proud when a single album does enough to assure them a spot in the upper echelon of hip-hop legends. With the unearthly level of skillful wordplay, the cinematic atmosphere, the subtle shades of growth, the energy of the posse cuts and some clever hooks, Big L’s Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous is a clinic on how to make a rap album of its era. The rapper’s ability to shift between comedic punchlines and haunting anecdotes, effortlessly tumbling through his enchanting syllables, cements this album as a hip-hop classic and Big L as an “all-time” level rapper. – Pax (8.5/10)

Big L—the king of punchlines and freestyles—released only one album during his lifetime, but it was all that was necessary to place him upon the upper echelon of all-time lists. Dark and brooding production courtesy of Lord Finesse, Buckwild, and Showbiz sets the scene for Lifestylez Ov Da Poor and Dangerous as the nightlife, and sometimes the highlife, as New York's streets are highlighted and portrayed through rhythm and rhyme. Big L paints pictures of cold, calloused lifestyles moulded by the ways and woes of street mentality, a vicious side of life that becomes immensely difficult to shake once it becomes one’s home. In Big L, you have one of the most unique MC's to ever step up to the mic—all facets of the game were well and truly tuned in. A major “what if?'” scenario of the rap world and a life cut short far too soon at the tender age of 24. – Peter (8.5/10)

Dominick: 10/10 | Daniel: 9.4/10 | Enth: 8.5/10 | Pax: 8.5/10

Hadley: 8.5/10 | Peter: 8.5/10 | DeVán: 8/10


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