Before he was tragically gunned down in 1999, Lamont “Big L” Coleman was one of the deftest rappers that New York‘s brimming scene had to offer. His vivid, focused narratives painted dark pictures of the streets of Harlem, he regularly spat out insults and similes so impressively disgusting that they could make Odd Future queasy, and his flow was unwaveringly crisp, suitable for virtually any beat. The latest in a string of posthumous releases, The Danger Zone collects demos, live takes, and remixes of some of L’s best-loved songs, as well as never-before-heard material. “Work, Part II” hijacks Guru’s verses and DJ Premier’s chunky, piano-powered beat from Gang Starr’s excellent alpha version, but L effortlessly captures the limelight with his verse. The 20-minute “Live in Amsterdam” shows just how fun a rap show can be when done with forceful energy, with L and select members of his D.I.T.C. clique firing up a Dutch audience that probably didn’t even know what the MCs were saying. It’s rich stuff, but since demos are rarely more interesting than their final versions, and the same verse appears on three songs (“Tru Master“, “98 Halftime Radio“, and “Cluemanati“), it’s obvious that the L well is going dry. Tenderfoots should start with 1995’s Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, as this one is best left for completists.
// Notes from the Road
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