One of the Greats: Big Pun

By Carlos Mesa

When people think about the greatest hip-hop artists of all time, they think of great names like Big L, Notorious B.I.G, 2pac, Jay-Z, Nas, Dr. Dre, etc. The one artist people continue to forget is a man from Bronx, New York. Christopher Lee Rios, a Puerto Rican-American known as Big Pun to the hip-hop world should be mentioned as one of the greatest hip-hop artists of all time.

Stepping on the hip-hop scene in the late 1990’s and emerging as one of the most lyrical artists, Big Pun only came out with two albums, Capital Punishment and Yeeeah Baby, due to the fact that his life was cut short by a deadly heart attack. A third album, Endangered Species, was created in his honor and consists of unreleased tracks, guest appearances, and greatest hits. Rios took on the name of Big Pun in honor of his childhood friend, Big Punisher, who was murdered.

Big Pun was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. His childhood was a difficult and emotional. His mother was a drug abuser, his father left the family and he suffered abuse from his stepfather. He dropped out of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in New York City at the age of 17. At times Pun was homeless, staying in abandon building or sleeping friend’s houses.

Big Pun’s first solo album, Capital Punishment, was released in 1998 and it was his only album released while he was living. It is widely regarded by fans and critics alike as his finest work. This was the first album by a solo Latino hip-hop artist to go platinum, peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200. The album was also nominated for a Best Rap Album Grammy, but lost to Jay-Z’s Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life. To this day the album has sold two million copies. Capital punishment shows Big Pun’s versatility in the subject he rapped about. He talks about subjects ranging from fantasies with women on “Still Not a Player” and “I’m Not a Player,” to relationships on “Punish Me,” to storytelling in “Fast Money.” In addition, he speaks of mafia life styles on “Glamour Life” and composes encompassing battle raps on “Beware,” “The Dream Shatterer,” and “Super Lyrical.” The album even boasts such street classics as “You Ain’t a Killer” and “Twinz.” The album made a clear statement that Big Pun here to stay.

Big Pun’s second solo album, Yeeeah Baby, was in released April of 2000 even after his death in February of the same year. The album wasn’t as much of a success as his first album but did peak at #3 on the Billboard 200 charts and went platinum. But, still Yeeeah Baby proves the rapper’s demise was doubly tragic. Yeeeah Baby wasn’t sought out to be as hardcore as his first album, Capital Punishment. Unlike the first album, Capital Punishment, Big Pun salutes his Latin heritage all over Yeeeah Baby, switching from street slang to Latin lingo without batting an eye, and working a flute charanga sample on “100%.” The album also displays an artist evolving beyond his previous work with remarkable ease.

Big Pun’s third solo album, Endangered Species, was released in 2001, a year after his death, and was tribute that consists of unreleased tracks, guest appearances, and greatest hits. The album even reached a peak chart position of #7. The album included some of his best solo hits, such as “It’s So Hard” and “Still Not a Player” along with several of Pun’s most memorable guest appearances, such as his cameo on the Beatnuts classic “Off the Books,” as well as some of his work with Terror Squad. The unreleased material may not be Big Pun’s best work but it won’t disappoint his fans. For this album the producers included the lyrics to all the songs to emphasize Pun’s technique as a lyricist. All proceeds from the album were to be given to Pun’s widow, Liza Rios, and their three children.

Big Pun should be considered one of greatest of all time because his ability spit out inventive rhymes and paces his delivery with excellence, more than proving that he should be considered in the top-ten list for late 1990s MCs, among considerable competition (Nas, Jay-Z, 2pac). Not only should Big Pun go down as one of the greatest MCs of all time but also as one the best technical and versatility of all time. May Big Pun rest in peace.


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One Response to “One of the Greats: Big Pun”

  1. novaboii get-em Says:

    Yo!!!!! Big Pun is like one of the illest fast spitting rappers ever. “I’m not a player I just crush a lot” that’s like the quote of my life. and then twinz with fat joe he said the funniest things. ” Meet me in Vitos with noodles we’ll do this dude while he is slurping spaghetti” haha

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