Jay-Z and Lord Finesse, photographed together in 1995.
Lord and Hov first met through Lamont “Big L” Coleman, who was an early fan of Shawn Carter. In the summer of 1990 L had met the Bronx legend at an autograph session in a record store on 125th Street. After the Harlem rapper delivered an impromptu freestyle they exchanged numbers and soon began a fruitful recording relationship.
In 1995 Hov and Finesse would join forces with Big L on his debut studio album Lifestylez Ov Da Poor & Dangerous, making an appearance on the Buckwild-produced track “Da Graveyard,” alongside Grand Daddy I.U., Microphone Nut and Party Arty.
Finesse spoke on his and L’s relationship with Jigga in 2010: “People don’t know Jay and Big L actually battled each other in Harlem. And I wish somebody videotaped that, because that woulda been a classic to this day. I think in battling each other they got admiration for one another, ‘cause I can tell you L was a Jay-Z fan, just like Jay-Z was a L fan … And I think after that battle L was like, 'Yo, I wanna put Hov on a song.’ And we’re not talking about the 'Reasonable Doubt’ Hov, we’re talking about the Hov fresh off the 'Can I Get Open’ single from Original Flavor in 1993. That’s the Hov we’re talking about. And we thought he was slick with the pen, but it wasn’t until later that we could truly honestly appreciate the Hov we know as of now … Jay was running around battling people [back then], and somebody set them up to battle each other. I don’t remember the exact date of their battle, I just remember L telling me about it. He was sitting on the stoop getting his hair braided, and [Jay came to Harlem] to battle this dude. [Big L] was also there when Jay-Z battled DMX. L was heavy into the battling thing.”