As most Both Teamsters know, I enjoy the hippity hop music quite a bit. Still, despite all the years of listening and debating, I’ve never been able to chose a favorite MC of all time. But depending on which day you asked me, I would definitely say one of three names: Jadakiss, Rakim or Big L.
Cormega, Scarface, Masta Ace and Sean P have all flirted with entrance into that top tier while Common, Ras Kass and Mos have probably rapped their way right out of the conversation, but the top three remain essentially unassailable at this point. Mainly this is because (a) Jada is Jada, (b) my love for Rakim is mostly based on history and nostalgia anyways, and (c) Big L is dead and no one is ever moving him off the list. I’m not sure if this is a universal sentiment, but I think, like the whole “you can’t lose your starting job to injury” theory in sports, a rapper can’t lose his spot due to death.
Either way, all this prologue is basically just a long way to note the sad fact that today is the 11th anniversary of the day Big L was killed. And the reason this is basketball-related is because, as most of you probably already know, L often spit about the NBA. In fact, I’ve been aggregating all the best NBA-related lyrics of all time for some time over on the NBA Lyric Project page (which needs some serious updating), and by far my favorite one is: “Fuck all the glamors and glitz, I plan to get rich, I’m from New York and never was a fan of the Knicks.”
I aint from New York, but I have now lived here for a decade, and since I have been a diehard Pacers/Reggie Miller fan since the early 90s, you can believe that a lot of my love for that line comes from how much I agree with the late, great Lamont Coleman on this one. So in memory of one of the best to ever touch a mic, below is Big L’s legendary “’98 Freestyle.” (Highly NSFW lyrics)
I’ll spare you hoops heads who may not care about hip hop any more rapper reminiscing, but my thoughts on where Big L was about to take lyricism right before he died can best be summed up by Jadakiss, who was rhyming about another Big from New York at the time: “I could go on for a year about how it’d be if you was still here.”