Exclusive: L's last living brother says the funky technician was ill-informed about who controls L's business and that the "Return of the Devil's Son" is in his hands.
Following the jaw-dropping revelations Diggin’ In The Crates crew-leader Lord Finesse made to HipHopDX back in July regarding the estate of his protégé, the late Big L, the sole surviving brother of the legendary Harlem emcee wants the world to know that he, and only he, controls his little brother’s posthumous affairs.
“No,” replied Donald Phinazee without hesitation when asked by DX on Friday (October 22nd) if L’s long absent father will see a penny of proceeds from the forthcoming collection of rare L recordings, Return of the Devil’s Son (due November 23rd). “I made sure of that too.”
“He don’t control nothing,” Donald, a/k/a Big Don, emphatically replied when further asked if, as Lord Finesse previously explained to DX, L’s father had assumed control of his son’s estate following the passing of Big Don and Big L’s mother, Gilda “Pinky” Terry, in 2008. “L’s father controls nothing. I control everything.”
“His father, that sperm donor... This have nothing to do with him,” Don clarified regarding the specific involvement of Lamont Coleman’s father in the first family-sponsored posthumous project from the esteemed emcee. “And I talked to Finesse and I told him about it. I was telling him about it: ‘His father might [try to] do something…’ But, I made a type of arrangement with [L’s father]. So he don’t have nothing to do with nothing… I know how [Finesse] feel though, ‘cause I feel the same way [about L’s father].”
While Don did not elaborate on the “arrangement” he made with L’s father to keep him out of his late son’s affairs, Big L’s eldest brother did speak at greater length about the arrangements he made to obtain the, in some instances nearly two-decade-old, master recordings of the late lyricist that were used for Return of the Devil’s Son.
“I got ‘em from the studios that had ‘em,” he revealed. “Lamont used to go to all different studios. So, he was out there, going to different spots. And I had to really go and find ‘em… [I had to] track dudes down… [But I think getting these tapes] was supposed to happen, because I was running into [most of] these dudes very easily… Out of nowhere, we just came together. It’s crazy how it happened. It’s really unbelievable.”
Return of the Devil’s Son includes Big L’s demonic debut 12” for which the album is named, as well as additional songs that were originally intended for L’s first full-length, Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous (“School Days,” “Unexpected Flava,” “I Should Have Used A Rubber,” “Principal Of The New School”), along with joints that would have likely surfaced on what would have been Big L’s sophomore studio LP (“Now Or Never” a/k/a “Power Moves,” “How Will I Make It?” a.k.a. “I Won’t,” “Hit It” a/k/a “Yes You Can”), and some of the several standout radio freestyles L amassed during the ‘90s (including the album’s finale, “Slaying The Mic,” a.k.a. the final freestyle L laid down before his tragic murder in February 1999).
A collection of songs and freestyles that most longtime Big L fans have heard previously via various mixtapes and projects unsanctioned by L’s family, (like the recently-released 139 & Lenox, which was mysteriously unleashed by the independent label L co-founded in the late ‘90s, Flamboyant Entertainment), may upon first glance seem unworthy of the hard-earned dollars of the buying public. But Gustavo Guerra insists the sound of this project will sway the skeptical into coppin’.
Said the CEO of Queens, New York based label Distrolord Inc, (who is releasing Return of the Devil’s Son in conjunction with Bay Area-based SMC Recordings): “These records that we have are basically unreleased records, and [in the past] certain people would have like unreleased vinyl, which would be of very low quality… [But] this is high-quality, mastered, [direct] from the reels to the actual CD. [With the unsanctioned Big L releases] people would just do minor press-ups and they would get shut down. And this is why we’re doing this album, basically [to say] this is the official record coming from the estate.”
The first leak from Return of the Devil’s Son, “Zone of Danger” , is a remix of “Danger Zone” from Lifestylez that deejay/producer J-Love debuted on his Unstoppable mixtape in 2006, and appears to have personally included in this new batch of Big L rarities in his role as one of the executive producers of the project, (along with Big Don and Gustavo Guerra).
“There are certain things that we’re putting out there just to get the fans ready [for future estate-sponsored Big L projects],” replied Guerra when the origins of “Zone of Danger” were pointed out to him.
The next estate-sanctioned project due for release is the long-overdue docu-DVD, Street Struck: The Big L Story. While the trailer for the film was released a year-and-a-half ago, Big Don insists the official story of Big L’s life is indeed coming soon.
“Tommy, the director, is mastering it, [but] it’s just so much [footage] that we got,” explained Don. “We got like nine, 10 hours worth of footage… [And] Tommy wanna take his time with it. He wanna put it out there out there, like all the way out there, like [internationally], everywhere, bam, at one time. So he wanna make it real, real good. So he’s really going over it, going back over it, re-doing it, doing this, putting that in, taking that out… We was trying to [get it done in time] for L’s next anniversary, but he wasn’t ready yet.”
An additional reason for the delay of the DVD, according to Don: “I hear Eminem wanna get into [the documentary] but I can’t get in touch with his people…”
“That’s what we trying to do now,” replied Don when asked if an interview with Jay-Z, (who got some of his first national exposure via Big L’s Lifestylez in 1995), had been secured for Street Struck. “My man [DJ] Premier said he’s gon’ hook us up. So, when Premier have time he’ll hook us up – ‘cause Premier been real busy too. But he said he was gonna put it together for us though so…that’s gon’ get done, ‘cause we need [Jay-Z’s] interview. Lamont took him out one time [in a battle] around the block… So, I want him to really admit it. [Laughs]”
Trailing Return of the Devil’s Son and Street Struck: The Big L Story will hopefully be the release of the Lord Finesse and DJ Premier helmed project that Finesse detailed to DX back in July.
“Yeah, I am,” conceded Don of his need to reach out to Big L’s musical mentor to clear up the apparent misunderstanding regarding L’s estate that has contributed to the decade-long delay since the release of the first official collection of previously unreleased L material, the gold-certified The Big Picture. “I gotta call him. We gotta play some pool. We usually get together, play some pool and talk… I’ma talk to him though. We gonna talk. That’s my man. I love that dude, ‘cause he helped me out a lot when I came home. I just did eight-and-a-half years. I came home, he embraced me, Premier embraced me, [Showbiz] embraced me, all them dudes embraced me. But Finesse really, really helped me out. That’s my man. He a good dude.”
While long-starving L supporters continue to salivate and wait for Lord Finesse to unveil some never-before-heard verses from arguably the greatest punch-line emcee in Hip Hop history, the assemblage of high-quality rarities on Return of the Devil’s Son will more than suffice in holding famished fans over, while furthering the legacy of Lamont Coleman nearly a dozen years after his death.
“L was gon’ [still] be out there,” said Big Don of where Big L would have been if he had lived to see 2010. “L was gon’ be where he was supposed to be, on top. Everybody know L was hot. Everybody know he was gonna be #1. If that wouldn’t have happened to my little brother, he’d a been there: unstoppable, still reinventing himself. I mean, L was a beast. And I’d say that even if he wasn’t my little brother. I used to tell him that, ‘Dog, you my little brother, but if you was wack I’d tell you that. No nigga, you a beast!’”