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Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Lost Tapes reivists 'The Big Picture'

"The Big Picture" was Big L's first (and in my eyes only worthy) posthumous full-length album, released via Rawkus about one and a year after Lamont's untimely and tragic passing. The main executive's of the album/compilation was Rich Nice and Big Leroy, with associate help from DJ Premier, Lord Finesse, Show and Mike Heron. Without a doubt, It's a dope album, but in many ways, which really isn't that suprising, it feels  whole lot like a compilation of some of L's last track, remixes and even freestyles. What's worse is that some of the original tracks that Big L originally had recorded, for some reason were remixed, resulting in a weaker version not at all representative of Big L's original style and featuring beats that I highly doubt the emcee would've even touched if he was alive. The two strongest examples of this is how the very good, original Buckwild mix of "Who You Slidin' Wit'" run laps around the suprisingly weak Pete Rock remix which made the album insteas (which was very suprising to me). The second example of this, is the Ysae remix (?) of Big L's overloked "Games Female Plays", that totally switched the somber feeling to a party track gone wrong, which even deleted two L verses to have Sadat X and GURU  On the flip side, DJ Premier and Mike Heron's respective remixes outshined the originals.

There's certain other things that I feel could make the album better and closer to L's original vision of an original album. For example the track "We Got This" with Mr. Cheeks was even released as a single but mysteriously was left off the Rawkus retail. This could, and should have, replaced tracks like "'98 Freestyle" and "Deadly Combination", two absolutely terrific mixtape joints that however have no place on an actual retail album at all; especially not since there were plenty of other songs to replace them with. This might all sound very negative, but the fact is that "The Big Picture" is a great album and major props to all involved for making it happen. The album presented below is simply my vision of how I think the album could've been improved,... To your ears, this might not at all be better, but I recommend you at least give it a chance, and play it front-and-back as intended I can say, that countless hours and research have gone into this project..

As any Lost Tapes fan knows, I never post albums that are not out of print, but here I make an exception. The reason for this is because it is still different from the retail, and the word is that since Lamont returned to the essence, people like Lord Finesse and Show have mentioed that the deceased artist's biological father, who was never there during Lamont's life, is claiming a large amount of any sales of Big L albums, which is the main reason why we still haven't seen the proper posthumous album that 'Ness and Premo was working on. So it's a real fucked up situation, and I hope he doesn't get a cent for any of Big L's music now or tand rest in peace to Lamont Coleman, one of the best to ever do it. You are surely missed!! And with that being said, let's get to the music - as I present the tracklist, I am giving y'all a track-by-track take on each song and why it is included, and possibly why I chose this version rather than what's heard on the retail. I hope y'all enjoy it fo what it is, and I also hope that you give it a fair chance and please drop a comment on your feelings of this c7 take of L's final, but not finalized, album.

01. "The Big Picture Intro"
This intro was obviously created posthumously, but it's the perfect introduction of the album, and I wouldn't dream of leaving this off the tracklist. In reality DJ Premier and Big L really didn't get the chance to work much together ("Thick" and "Da Enemy" are the two that comes to mind), which is a shame considering their chemistry were equal to that of Preem and Nas.The L verse is an all-time classic, although it been used in freestyles and on other songs; parts of it even appear on a later song but who really cares. The live intro by Bumpy Knuckles and DJ Premier from the Big L tribute concert is a perfect way to set up the album; I'm glad they didn't put it together to constantly remind us of the fact that the artist we're listening to had just been killed, but it would be equally wrong to not give it some kind of tribute.
02. "Ebonics"
Wow, this is one of the best hip-hop tracks ever recorded in my opinion, and is also the last song L released officially; as a 12" single on his own Flamboyant imprint with the equally stunning "Size 'Em Up" on the flip. Right before L was killed, I remember how I used to bump this multiple times each and every day and were just stunned by the concept an the way L delivered it; and to this day, it sounds just as fresh. This, together with the following song, is, to me, Ron Browz absolute best work.

03. "Size 'Em Up"
As mentioned before, this was the B-side to "Ebonics" , and to me both songs proved that L was on a warpath, going in a totally new direction from his debut. A direction that potentially would give him a lot more exposure while still keeping it hardcore with a capital H. There's also a L song called "On The Mic" whih uses the same lyrics as "Size 'Em Up", but I think we can safely assume that the latter is the only "real" version. Even if you have "The Big Picture" on CD, cassette or LP, I would strongly recommend getting the "Ebonics / Size 'Em Up" 12" as well, as it's without a doubt one of the best singles released in the late '90s.

04. "We Got This" (Ft. Mr. Cheeks)
Another song produced by Ron Browz, or Rondell as he was called then, who seemed to be something like L's in-house producer during his final days. Featuring Mr. Cheeks of The Lost Boyz, this was most likely L's next planned, and completed single, as it was released on Flamboyant Records, with "The Heist" on the flip, shortly after his death. While it's not at all one of my favorite tracks, I think it makes zero sense that Rawkus did not include this in favor of tracks like "Games" and "'98 Freestyle Pt. 1". Lyrically, Cheeks and Big L bounces off eachother to great effect, and as a strictly lyrical record it's really good.

05. "Devils Son '98 (Interlude)"
Rather than using the Stretch Armstrong freestyle, I felt that the 1998 one verse-and-hook live recording of "Devil's Son" worked a lot better as a cool lil' interlude. While the beat remains the same, Big L totally flipped out with a brand new verse, that's just as off-the-wall hardcore and dark humorous as the original '93 mix. This was recorded during Big L's last European live performance, in Amsterdamn on October 8, 1999.


06. "Holdin' It Down" (Ft. AG, Party Arty & Pete Rock)
This is the original 12" version of "Holdin it' Down" and it's the superior and more hardcore version without a doubt. Pete Rock does a great job on the beat, scratches and typical ad-libs, but the real treat here is to hear L go head to head with AG and Party Arty, another now deceased D.I.T.C. affiliate and Ghetto Dwellas member. P-80 also appeared on "Da Graveyard", and has an equally raw verse here so it's ahrd to figure out why his verse was replaced by one of Stan Spit. The other main difference, that goes a long way, is that instead of Miss Jones' singing the hook (a singer I often liked on hip-hop tracks of the '90s), the hook is made up of a superb scratch hook courtesy of Pete Rock.


07. "The Heist" (Lord Finesse's Re-Visit)
The original Ron Browz produced version of this flawless exercise in storytelling appeared as the B-side to the '99 single "We Got This", as mentioned above. The Lord Finesse remix takes on a much more funk infused sound that places the story in an altogether new setting, much like movie music is so important to establish a scene. I like both versions, but in my opinion Finesse's revisit is the stronger mix, and since it's The Funky Man's only contribution to the album, I eventually decided to go with this one for my take.

08. "The Enemy" (Ft. Fat Joe)
Originally started making the mixtape circuit as early as 1997, and even making a stand-out apperance on DITC's "Worldwide" the same year as "The Big Picture". Therefore, it might have been logic to cut this off the album, but I didn't have the heart for that considering how fucking ridiciolous this monster of a track really is.Not only is it one of the best anti-police anthem's of all time, DJ Premier hooks up one of his hardest beats of all time and Big L and Fat Joe soun so damn nice together, Historic track!

09. "Flamboyant" 
This is The Ghetto Pro's Mike Heron's only contribution on the album, and although it's one that was made after L's passing, it's an absolute stand-out on the album. I moved this back a step on the album, because I felt it sounded somewhat superior when sequenced between "The Enemey" and "Platinum Plus".Mike Heron might be one of the most underrated producers in the game, this joint is aboslutely magic and was the first choice for a single; in the linear notes A&R Rich Nice thanks Mike Heron for "giving L a #1 single". This is a true anthem right here my friends!

10. "Platinum Plus" [OG Riverside Mix] (Ft. Stan Spit)
This is not the version that appeared on the retail but rather the original track that L recorded, that DJ Premier used for the Big Daddy Kane assisted remix that was used for the retail. This is very different, kinda soulful, with L's protogé Stan Spit and Lamont going back and forth over the beat by The Originators (or possibly Riverside). I'm not sure who actually produced this, it was released in 2006 on the Corleone release "The Archives 1996-2000", as "The Original Riverside Mix" but it has also been released as "The Originator's Mix". Could it be that it's this french crew, their producers seem to have worked with Das EFX and Cocoa Brovaz as far as US artists goes. Anyone have further information about this, or able to clear it up, please drop a comment.

11. "Who You Slidin' With" [Buckwild Mix]
A lot of things point to this being the original version, as well as originally meant to be included on the album. It sounds much more natural than the weak Pete Rock remix on the retail, which is one of the wackest Pete beats I've ever heard, and it's also Buckwild's only contribution to the known songs recorded around this time. Add this to the fact that the linear notes shouts out Buckwil in the list of artists labeled under "thanks to all the artists and producers involved in the making of this album". This was also released before the album on an early Rawkus sampler for the project. This sounds so much better in the context of what Big L was doing at the time of his last singles and guest apperances.

12. "Games Females Play"
Just like "The Enemy", this is an older record, made for a Columbia sequel that never materialized around '96-97. As mentioned eaerlier, this is the song that was remixed for the retail by no-name producer Ysae into the emb(wherarassing club-track gone wrong called '"Games", that appeared on the retail. It's cool to hear Sadat X and GURU make an apperance on the album, but when you take into account that neither verse were actually done in studio with L, and that none of them are particular good, it becomes nothing more than a missed opportunity. Worse yet, is that, for this reason, it deletes not only the original beat, but also two excellent Big L verses which were never released on anything official. and we all kno how brilliantly funny L was when taking stabs at shady female!

13. "Fall Back" (Ft. Kool G Rap)
It's quite clear that this collaboration never really took place in reality; I would imagine that Big L at least would've give a shout out to G Rap in his verse or even in the intro or something in any other case. But shit, G Rap and Big L on the same record - that's an obvious dream collabo, just like the after-the-fact joint with Big Daddy Kane and DJ Premier. Producer Shomari (?) does a great job with the backdrop too, so in the end this is obviously a keeper.
 
14. "Furious Anger" (Ft. Shyheim)
This collaboration with Shyheim was one of the last tracks L ever recorded, and was made for Shyheim's 1999 album "Manchild". The song was produced by E-Blast and Jimmy Swag, but an interesting fact is that Lamont actually produced another record on Shy's third  LP, "Trust It's On". Hanging so closely with Finesse, Show, Buckwild, Diamond D and later DJ Premier and many others, it's possible that L would've been getting more into production. In fact on the 12" releases, Big L was credited to have produced "Ebonics", "Size 'Em Up", "Yje Jeost" and "We Got This" together with Rondell/Ron Browz. But back to "Furious Anger", it's an absolute classic and if they could reuse "Da Enemey" they could've easily used this for both "Manchild" and "Big Picture".

15. "Causualties of a Dice Game"
On the retail, this was placed much earlier in the sequencing, which to me was somewhat of a mistake. I admit to not liking the production that much, but the minimalist approach works in the context that it put L's story at the forefrnt. "Casualties of a Dice Game" is another vivid exercise in story telling that put most rappers describing the backsides of street life to shame. As the title indicates, this is a story about a dice game gone horribly wrong, and told from an "I perspective", which results in Big L getting shot and killed at the end. This is both pretty morbid and a bad omen of what was to come when listening now, but due to the nature of the end this should definitely be sequenced closer to the end of the album.

16. "Platinum Plus" [DJ Premier Remix] (Ft. Big Daddy Kane) 
I placed the original version a little higher up, but it would be a cardinal sin not to include the DJ Premier remix of "Platinum Plus" as well. To me, this is the Big L / Preem equivallent to, say, "Nas is Like" with an up-tempo beat that's absolutely impossible to resist. This also shows DJ Premier's impeccable remixing skills, as L sounds so natural over this beat that it might've weel been the beat he actually spat that verse over. And then of course, you got Big Daddy Kane closing it out with an unforgettable performance. This is without a doubt, one of the five best songs on the LP; some days I would say it's even #1. I made a mistake when I uploaded the .rar file though, and put this as track 17, but just switch it to 16 and the next joint to 17 and you got the intended sequence.

 17. "The Triboro" (Ft. OC, Fat Joe, Show & Remy Ma)
Finally, we get a true D.I.T.C. posse cut, that should satisfy any fan of the crew or either rapper appearing here. Come to think about it, there's very little directly D.I.T.C. related material  featured on this disc, so once Show's booming and bapping beat, complete with a fat ass bass line and well used synth lines, you know you're in for a treat. If I remember right, Big L's verse is the same as that on "We Got This", but that's easy to overlook considering how dope it is to hear L with OC, Fat Joe and even Remy Ma on a beat like this, one last time. The perfect album closer, although it will have you fineding for more... Something we unfortunately never will get. Aight, hit download and LET'S GO listen to one of the all time greats. Enjoy!

BIG L - "THE BIG PICTURE" [C7 REVISIT] 

7 comments:

  1. Props on the revisit. More DITC on Big L's last album is appreciated. Could you give some of the productions credits?

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  2. hehe i take that as you don't have the retail "Big Picture" release. while this compilation is better imo, the retail is definitely worth picking up but sure i'll help you out. below is the production credits for the revisit.

    01. DJ Premier
    02. Rondell a/k/a Ron Browz & Big L
    03. Rondell a/k/a Ron Browz & Big L
    04. no production credit on 12" or other releases
    05. Live, beat by Show
    06. Pete Rock
    07. Lord Finesse rmx [original by Rondell & Big L]
    08. DJ Premier
    09. Mike Heron of The Ghetto Pro's
    10. Shomari
    11. DJ Premier
    12. Buckwild
    13. unknown, either DITC producer or Harlem prod.
    14. E-Blast & Jimmy Swag, co-prod. by Shyheim
    15. Rondell a/k/a Ron Browz & Big L
    16. Showbiz


    if you have listened to my revisit please let me know what you think of it. is the sequencing optimal, should some tracks been left off and some tracks included, etc.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I haven't finished listening to it yet, but I'll give my thoughts on it when I finish. And yeah, I haven't heard the retail version yet.

    ReplyDelete
  4. can we please have a re up?

    ReplyDelete