Hailing from Harlem, Big L (born Lamont Coleman) covered an impressive amount of musical ground despite being tragically murdered in a drive-by shooting months before his 25th birthday. He began rapping at the age of 12, first cutting his teeth by freestyling against anyone willing in his neighborhood. After his first group, Three the Hard Way, shortly disbanded in 1990 due to a lack of enthusiasm and the temptations of the streets, Big L turned to his music as a way to Rise above the difficult circumstances his rough environment was fostering. That same summer, Big L met Lord Finesse at an autograph signing at a record shop and freestyled for him. That fateful meeting later grew into the young rapper's first notable appearance on a record. In 1995, he released his debut album Lifestylez ov da Poor & Dangerous, while beginning to make a wave in the underground hip-hop scene. In 1998, he formed his own indie label, Flamboyant Entertainment, self-releasing one of his most renowned singles "Ebonics." Although his life was cut short a year later passing away at 24 from fatal gunshot wounds Big L's legacy was left in good hands. His manager Rich King released the rapper's second studio album, The Big Picture a project that was eventually certified gold as well as three other posthumous albums comprised of previously unreleased material. Over the years, countless tributes have been organized honoring the rapper's memory, with many agreeing that he was one of the most underrated and ferocious lyricists of the '90s.
Robert Hall Jr., better known as Lord Finesse, is a rapper and producer from The Bronx, New York. He is the founder of the rap collective D.I.T.C. (“Diggin In The Crates”), which initially included rapper/producer Diamond D plus Showbiz & AG, but then expanded to include Fat Joe, O.C., Buckwild, and Big L. After creating a local buzz with rapping, Finesse teamed up with DJ Mike Smooth in the late ‘80s and signed a deal with Wild Pitch Records in 1989. The pair released their debut album Funky Technician in 1990. While critically acclaimed and featuring production from the likes of DJ Premier, Diamond D and Showbiz, the album was not a commercial success, peaking at Number 93 on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Parting ways with Mike Smooth and signing to Ice-T’s Rhyme Syndicate Management, Finesse released 1992’s Return of the Funky Man as a solo effort, which doubled as his debut as a producer. Though he released one more album in 1996 (his highest-charting to date), it would be Finesse’s production career that would ultimately earn him a place in hip-hop’s elite. Throughout his career, Finesse has produced for the likes of The Notorious B.I.G, Big L, Capone-N-Noreaga, Dr. Dre and many more. In 2012, Finesse changed the landscape of mixtape sampling when he sued Mac Miller for $10 million for sampling his song "Hip 2 Da Game" on his 2010 mixtape, despite not having put the tape up for sale. They settled out of court for an undisclosed amount. To date, Finesse is still a prominent force within hip-hop, both on the music side and speaking on the state of the culture.
While MF DOOM (born Daniel Dumile) is highly regarded as one of the most inimitable figures in hip-hop, part of his legacy also lies within his collaborative work and in his eccentric half-dozen alter egos. Of those experimental projects, his partnership with Danger Mouse (born Brian Burton) is one of the most celebrated. Their debut project, The Mouse and the Mask, was released to critical acclaim in 2005, utilizing the collective moniker DANGER DOOM. The project was released in the UK through Lex Records, as well as in the United States through punk label Epitaph Records, marking the latter imprint's third foray into hip-hop. Best known for his work with the Gorillaz, Beck, the Black Keys, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Grammy Award-winning producer Danger Mouse handled the instrumentation, while DOOM focused on the animated vocals and eccentric lyrical direction. For DANGER DOOM‘s debut, Danger Mouse chose to sample exclusively from various animated shows airing on Adult Swim, Cartoon Network's late-night programming block—with a handful of cartoon characters from Aqua Teen Hunger Force making appearances on the album, in addition to the likes of Cee-Lo Green, Talib Kweli, and Ghostface Killah. With support from the network and famed comedian Dave Chappelle alike, the project was released in October 2005 and quickly became a cult fan favorite. While the album sparked several noteworthy talking points, MF DOOM's diss against his former collaborator, MF Grimm, undeniably stood out. The Monsta Island Czars (M.I.C.) member later responded with the track "Book of Daniel," during which he accused DOOM of selling out. With many hailing the seemingly unlikely pairing of MF DOOM and Danger Mouse as an undeniable success, DANGER DOOM delivered once again the following year, releasing their 2006 EP, Occult Hymn, exclusively though AdultSwim.com. Although DANGER DOOM has not reunited since 2006, their small-but-impactful body of work remains heralded as one of the most experimental and pleasantly absurdist collaborations to come out of the 2000s.