Before we end the month, it’s only right we pay homage to a true Rap God — Big Pun.
Now let me take a trip down memory lane if y’all don’t mind. It’s February 8, 2000, first period in Mrs Banard’s television and broadcasting class, I was singing the lyrics to the Big Pun and Noreaga song “Thug Brothers” and this kid Mike says, “Yeah man. Rest in peace Big Pun”. I said, “What? Pun ain’t dead”. He replied, “Yes he is. He died yesterday from a massive heart attack”. I’m like, “Yeah right”.
Now at that time, I didn’t have cable. The only way I could watch TV was to stick a pair of scissors into the back of the TV set to get a halfway clear picture to watch Good Times. But I always had a radio. So I got home and Foxy 99 was playing a Big Pun mix, and the DJ said, “Rest in peace to Big Pun who died last night of a heart attack at the age of 28”. I yelled out, “What?! So it was true!”.
Pun was one of my favorites. On the song “You Came Up” when he said, “Weight of the Bronx I’m flippin, five boroughs thoroughly reppin’ / Lets unite the city and step to the world as a weapon”, inspired me to step up my bars as a rapper. For some reason, those few bars made me believe that I was going to be the best. And that I could compete with any rapper on the planet.
Pun came on the scene, by way of Fat Joe in 1995, on Joe’s second album, “Jealous Ones Envy”, on the song “Watch Out”. When Pun’s verse came on, it totally stole the show with lines like,
I doom the world like I was God and throw my gun away
Then snatch the moon out the sky, and blow the sun away
Me and my brothers play hardball
Strictly hardcore, lyrics til I’m finished breakin God’s laws
After that, Pun was on a rampage leaving yellow tape and white sheets on any beat he touched. On the classic posse cut, “Wishful Thinking” featuring Hip Hop legends Fat Joe, Kool G Rap, and B-Real, Pun spit a verse that reflects a man who admits he’s troubled and trying to get it together:
I wish I could, I wish I could
Never forget this whole damn world ain’t shit, not just the hood
Yo, I’d change my life make my wife forget the tears from the pain and physical abuse
Give her back her best years
Grab my chest hairs, pound my fist on the hard cement
Spark the scent, and cloud the sky to my heart’s content
Repent and vow she’ll be forgiven
How could we be proud to live in a world
Which condemns man, child, and woman?
Pun signed to Loud Records and dropped his debut album “Capital Punishment” on April 28, 1998, which went to #5 on the Billboard 200, and #1 on the Hip Hop and R&B charts. Fueled by the singles, “I’m Not a Player” and “Still Not a Player”, Pun became the first Latino rapper to go platinum. In an interview, Pun said that the album was 99 percent hardcore to show you that he was the best rapper in the world.
“Capital Punishment” featured guest appearances from Prodigy (RIP), Inspectah Deck, Busta Rhymes, Wyclef, Black Thought, Terror Squad, and his friend/mentor Fat Joe. On the classic back and forth “Twinz” track, Pun spat a line that drove hip hop insane:
Dead in the middle of Little Italy, little did we know
That we riddled some middlemen who didn’t do diddly
In 1998 and 1999, Pun stayed incredibly busy doing songs with a handful of features including Ricky Martin, Onyx, Jennifer Lopez, Noreaga, Fat Joe, and a slew of others. On the classic Fat Joe track, “John Blaze”, Pun stole the show again with the lines,
I’ll appear in your dreams, like Freddie do, no kidding you
Even if I stuttered I would still sh-sh-shit on you
In late ’99, Terror Squad dropped their project “The Album”. The lead single was pretty much a Pun solo called “Whatcha Gon Do?”. The song and album were well received by critics, but did not achieve commercial success.
In 2000, Pun was gearing up for “Yeeeah Baby”, the follow-up to his classic debut. Unfortunately, Pun passed away right before his sophomore album release at only the age of 28. On the lead single for “It’s So Hard”, Pun says, “It’s hard work, baby. I just lost a hundred pounds. I’m tryin’ to live. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. I’m stayin’ alive, baby”. You can’t help but get choked up. The album achieved platinum status and also was the introduction of Remy Martin aka Remy Ma on the song “MS. Martin”.
In 2001, Loud Records released “Endangered Species”, which was a posthumous release flooded with some of his most known features, as well as the debut of the then aspiring R&B artist, Ashanti.
Although Pun only dropped two albums, he was able to achieve what so many rappers couldn’t. He also managed to gain respect as a lyricist, all while attracting mainstream appeal. His name is forever cemented in Hip Hop history.
His son Chris Rivers and daughter Star Rios have followed their legendary father’s footsteps and have started rap careers. Chris Rivers has collab’d with Wu-Tang Clan, Joell Ortiz, Canibus, Termanology, Cormega, Chino XL, Vinnie Paz, The Lox, etc. Earlier this month, on Pun’s 18th death anniversary, his offsprings, Chris and Star, have dropped a collaborative tribute track for their father titled, “You Ain’t Banned“.
Rest In Peace to the “Dream Shatterer” — Big Pun.
November 10, 1971 – February 7, 2000