Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous
Quite possibly the best MC to ever come out of Harlem, Big L was on the cusp of superstardom when he was shot dead in early 1999. A master of killer punchlines, wild bravado, and colorful crime stories, he was put on by Lord Finesse, who brought him into D.I.T.C. and provided many of the beats on this exceptional debut. Lifestylez is a great mix of humor, sh*t-talk, and felonious flows, with crucial selections like the single "MVP," anti-gold digger manifesto "No Endz, No Skinz" (sample lyric: "they wanna know why I'm so fly/a girl asked me for a ring so I put one around her whole eye"), and the cautionary tale of "Street Struck." Also clutch are two thunderous posse cuts, "8 Iz Enuff" and "Da Graveyard," the latter of which features Granddaddy I.U. and a young Jay-Z. Undeniably hardcore but also occasionally hilarious, L's rhymes continue to amaze years after his untimely passing. The only album released during his lifetime, this is absolutely essential listening.