20 Years Later, Big Pun’s “Capital Punishment” Is Still One of the Best Hip Hop Debut Albums Ever

On April 28, 1998, Christopher Rios introduced to the world what would later be crowned as one of the greatest debut albums in hip hop history. Capital Punishment is important to hip hop for so many reasons. Pun was the first Latin rapper to bring home a platinum plaque (selling 1 million copies) for this masterpiece. The album reached #5 on Billboard 200 and #1 on the Billboard R&B/Hip Hop charts. Pun instantly showed the world that he belonged amongst the hip hop elites. Capital Punishment also received 4 Mics in The Source Magazine, 5 Mics being the most. For his debut album, Pun lined up some of the best in the game — Prodigy, Inspectah Deck, Black Thought, Joe, Wyclef Jean, and his own crew the Terror Squad.

The Source Magazine’s “Capital Punishment” Review


Pun made it clear that he was about business on the opening track “Beware”. Possibly one of the hardest album starters in hip hop. When he uttered, “Flawless victory you niggas can’t do shit to me / Physically lyrically hypothetically realistically…”, you just knew that he meant every word of it.

Philly legend Black Thought popped up on the track that fits him and Pun perfectly, “Super Lyrical”. Pun also received a hip hop quotable from The Source Magazine for his first verse. Here are some of the lines:

I’m possum at grade school
That’s why I have to debate you
My raps are like Cable, slashing your facial
That’s how a master degrades you; I’m battling Jesus
If he passes through my label I’m snatching his halo
God, I’ll trade you, if you send my father back as an angel

On the cut “Dream Shatterer”, Pun literally shatters dreams by going for the jugular and confesses to “any man claimin’ his game’s tighter, is a god damn liar”. Pun also showed that he’s more than a hardcore lyricist on Capital Punishment. He can also make you laugh. On the skit “Packinamac”, after Pun shoots a few cats from an argument, Pun links up with his twin Cuban Link and he tells him that he was “packin’ a mac in the back of the Ac’”. They then had a field day singing it.

On the song “Punish Me” featuring Miss Jones, Pun spits about the battle of dealing with a love gone sour and a child involved. On the posse cut “Glamour Life”, Pun takes the backseat and let’s his crew Terror Squad run wild. A year later Terror Squad’s The Album would emerge.

My personal favorite cut was “Tres Leches” featuring Prodigy (RIP) and the criminally underrated Inspectah Deck. Playing off a Rakim line from “I Ain’t No Joke”, they all kick hard bars over a grimy RZA beat. Pun showed off his storytelling skills on “Fast Money”. Noreaga also came through on the feel good track, “You Came Up”. Pun and NORE had this chemistry that I always felt was incredible.

Pun was the complete MC in my book. You got hardcore, you got comedy, you got street shit, club bangers, etc. I mean, look at “Still Not a Player”. He had everyone rocking out that whole summer. Did you notice Remy on the second verse saying “you nasty twin”?

20 years later you can play Capital Punishment like it just came out and it still sounds incredible.

Christopher Rios aka Big Pun
November 10, 1971—February 7, 2000