Save the rare gem, hip-hop fans have unfortunately learned that posthumous releases are never comprised of an artist’s best work. And the more time that has passed, the less likely the “new” tracks are going to satisfy. It’s often the case that if the songs were really that great they would have already been released. Whether it’s greedy labels, fame-hungry hanger-ons or foolish family members, albums from the deceased often get put out for the wrong reasons (i.e. those that don’t maintain the artistic vision and integrity of the musician). Sadly Return of the Devil’s Son from Big L represents everything wrong with posthumous releases.
You might not remember where you were on Feb. 15, 1999 — the day Big L was tragically killed. Considering his under-the-radar success at the time, you might not even have been familiar with his music at the time. Certainly you know the name by now though, especially in a community where death often elevates a man’s reputation. His punch lines, nimble-burst flow and ability to craft a tale frequently put him in the endless debates over who is the greatest emcee of all time. Regardless of whether you think Big L deserves to be in those conversations, simply showed promise he never had time to deliver on or is just one of many skilled emcees of his era and location, this album won’t do much to change your thoughts on the New York rapper.
Big L’s talents and abilities have little bearing on the success of this disc. If you listen to Big L there isn’t much new to hear on the LP. Its filled with recycled and already bootlegged verses from different times of his career lain across production from the likes of J-Love, Showbiz and Domingo that sound somewhere between dated and appropriate for the time L was recording. The audio quality varies throughout as well as the strength of the verses. Some of this might be excusable if it weren’t being passed off (by family members no less!) as something unheard.
This album shouldn’t have been put out, and only the most rabid Big L fan should think about buying it. Big L no doubt had considerable talent, but to appreciate it one should listen instead to Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous or The Big Picture. Coming over ten years after his death, The Return of the Devil’s Son disrespects Big L and his fans by being a lazy and lame attempt to squeeze money from the beloved artist.