On this day in 1994, Big L, widely regarded as one of the best and most creative rappers to ever do it, was gunned down outside a Harlem apartment. Even if you don't know his name, you know his style, as the rapper's mastery of multisyllabic words and stand up comic-level punchlines influenced everyone from Eminem to Jay-Z to Mac Miller. We've already covered his 10 Best Songs, but we asked Miller, who sports a L tattoo to commemorate his biggest influence, to break down his legacy and share his favorite tracks.
I’ve been a fan of Big L for a long time. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I’d be rapping right now. He inspired me to pick up a pen. In 8th grade, I actually started the first-ever Big L Facebook fan group before they had fan pages.
I’ve always had an old soul. When I was 14, my one homie played something off [his debut] Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous around the time that I was freestyling a lot. I was searching for something to inspire me and I remember finding that album and listening to it in my basement nonstop. It got to the point where my friends would get mad and be like, “Come on, man. We gotta listen to some Gucci Mane” and I’d only play Big L. Early on, a lot of my cadences and multi-syllabic rhyme patterns were very inspired by L.
There was growth in his sound from his early days to his [posthumous] second album [The Big Picture]. He was progressing with the times and wasn’t trying to just make 1994 music all the time. I’d like to think if he was still here, he still would’ve been dope. Whether or not everyone in the world knows about Big L is one thing, but people that know about rap give L the utmost respect.