Posthumous compilation; no rating given.
Gunfire cut the lives of too many talented emcees short. 2Pac, Notorious BIG and Scott LaRock instantly come to mind. Typically lost in the shuffle of the deceased is Big L. At 24, Lamont Coleman’s life was stopped in a barrage of gun fire. Many believe he was on the verge of greatness. With just two solo releases (1995’s Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous and 2000’s The Big Picture) fans are left with a lot of “what ifs?” and outtakes of unreleased songs to keep the legacy alive.
Enter the late 2010 posthumous release Return of the Devil’s Son. Though the bulk of the material are freestyles and verses previously heard, there’s something for everyone, from the biggest Big L fan to those hearing the New York spitter for the first time. The album’s intro, “Return of the Devil’s Son” finds L going hard in a live performance. It serves as a fitting introduction and shows off the genius that was Big L: witty and gritty punch lines delivered in a way that won’t frighten the masses (and spitting a rhyme about dropping a hair dryer in the bathtub and offing your mom will certainly raise an eye brow).
At a robust 21 tracks, “Return” shines in two key areas: the outtakes and the actual songs. Some of the shorter, one verse tracks like “Slaying the Mic” and “Tony’s Touch” standout. The tracks that sound like actual songs give the best glimpse of what L might have become had his life not been cut short. “Power Moves” and the Royal Flush and Kool G Rap assisted “Right to the Top” could occupy a slot on any 2010 or 2011 mix tape or album and hold their own.
It’s hard to get excited about rehashed vocals and tracks we’ve heard before. Return of the Devil’s Son ultimately succeeds due to nostalgia purposes and—after all these years—the rhymes are still damn good. Still, many of the freestyles just whet our appetites for a Big L album we’ll never get to hear.
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