Big L The Big Picture

When this Harlem MC was tragically murdered a year and a half ago, he was on the cusp of a major breakthrough. Having re-emerged from his low profile with the glorious return to form "Ebonics," after dropping his critically acclaimed Lifestylez Ov Da Poor And Dangerous in 1995, Big L headed his own label, Flamboyant Records, and was on the verge of inking a deal with Jay-Z's iced-out Roc A Fella juggernaut. An undisputedly skilled MC, the member of the Diggin' In The Crates crew built a rep for his energetic delivery and witty punch-lines, but in the wake of his death, Big L has been inevitably elevated to the status of a deity, setting high, unrealistic expectations for this posthumous release. To its credit, The Big Picture doesn't dwell on Big L's passing and instead focuses on capturing the essence of his appeal. Therefore, his top-notch flow is in effect on "Holdin It Down" and his knack for narrative on "The Heist" are featured alongside some of his best previously released efforts. Various guest appearances and strong board work in general hold the limited available material together. Yet the feeling that Big L's best material was yet to come, underlined by his eerily titled "Deadly Combination" collaboration with fellow slain rapper Tupac Shakur, never really goes away. (Rawkus)