Reigning from the Bronx is Big Pun, an emcee whose ability to master stylistic literary devices deemed him a legendary act by automation. Born Chistopher Lee Rios, the class act tragically and unexpectedly passed away on February 7, 2000 from a heart attack and respiratory failure at the tender age of 28. Today (Feb. 7), marks eighteen years since Big Pun’s devastating passing, one that hit the souls of the hip-hop world heavily.
Big Punisher initially entered the rap game in the mid 80s as a member and founder of underground hip-hop collective Full-A-Clips and at the time, went under the moniker Big Moon Dawg. Recordings from the collective have been concealed and remain unreleased, but are known to be the earliest recordings of the late Puerto Rican emcee.
Pun made his commercial debut amid the 90s in 1995 on who would become his partner solidified partner in rhyme, Fat Joe and his sophomore album Jealous One’s Envy, making a guest appearance on the song “Watch Out,” giving birth to one of hip-hop’s most influential duos.
Showcasing his daffy rhymes scheme, in 1997 Pun’s debut single “I’m Not a Player” was released becoming an instant triumph in the underground world. His ability to memorably insert techniques in the likes of wordplay, double rhyming, and compound rhymes was deemed essentially innovative. The track earned Pun a Grammy nomination in 1999 for Best Rap Album.
Tabbed on his debut album Capital Punishment, which is also considered by many to be one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time, is the remix to “I’m Not a Player” featuring Fat Joe “Still Not Player.” The music video is one of Pun’s most iconic appearances, as he is seen vibing with fellow hip-hop notables Onyx, Cormega, Guru, Tony Touch and The Beatnuts-whom Pun made a credited appearance on their 1997 classic “Off the Books.”
Once the full-length, double disc version of Capital Punishment was released the following year, the album went platinum causing Pun to make history as the first hip-hop solo act of Latino descent to achieve the mark.
The success of Capital Punishment lead to his inception into Terror Squad, a Bronx based posse alongside members in the likes of Fat Joe, Cuban Link, Tony Sunshine, Remy Ma and more. His performance on the group’s debut song “Whatcha Gon’ Do’ was an avid stand out being Pun’s complex rhyme tactics were at large.
Big Pun was visually an overweight man which added on to his signature appearance and complimented the “Big” in his moniker. On February 7th, 2000 during a momentary stay at Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains, New York, Pun faced a fatal heart attack and respiratory failure. He weighted 698 pounds at the time of his death, the highest weight amid his lifetime. He withdrew from a Saturday Night Live performance two days prior where he was scheduled to perform with Fat Joe and Jennifer Lopez.
Big Pun’s death was a shock to the hip-hop world, a matter which automatically merged murals and tributes throughout areas bound to hip-hop culture. His success as a hip-hop emcee of Puerto Rican heredity rose a strong sense of pride in the Latino community deeming him heroic and unquestionably iconic, especially during a time when the representation of the Latino rapper in mainstream hip-hop was faint and at times, controversial.
Pun is survived by his wife Liza Rios and their three children Amanda, Vanessa and Christopher Jr best known as Chris Rivers who became a notably recognized lyricist, maintaining the lyrical clout mindset of his father.