Big Pun in 1997
|Christopher Lee Rios|
|Big Punisher, Pun|
November 10, 1971|
Soundview, South Bronx, The Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||February 7, 2000
Crowne Plaza Hotel, White Plains, New York, U.S.
|Cuban Link, Terror Squad, N.O.R.E., Lord Tariq and Peter Gunz, Fat Joe|
Christopher Lee Rios (November 10, 1971 - February 7, 2000), better known by his stage name Big Pun (short for Big Punisher), was an American rapper. Emerging from the underground hip hop scene in The Bronx borough of New York City, in the early 1990s, he was the first Latino rapper to have an album certified platinum as a solo act. He first appeared on tracks from Fat Joe's second album Jealous One's Envy in 1995, and The Beatnuts' second album Stone Crazy in 1997, prior to signing to Loud Records as a solo artist. Pun's lyrics are notable for technical efficiency, having minimal pauses to take a breath, heavy use of alliteration as well as internal and multi-syllabic rhyming schemes. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time.
About.com ranked him #25 on its list of the 50 Greatest MCs of All Time, while MTV2 ranked him #11 on its list of the "22 Greatest MCs". In 2012, The Source ranked him #19 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time.
Rios was born on November 10, 1971 in The Bronx, New York City to parents of Puerto Rican descent. He grew up in the South Bronx neighborhood of the city, and had at least 2 sisters and 1 brother. He regularly played basketball and trained in boxing for a while. He eventually moved out of his mother's house at the age of 15, and was homeless for a period of time in the late 1980s. Rios received a large settlement from the city stemming from an incident in 1976, where a five-year-old Rios broke his leg while playing in a park. Using the settlement money, Rios married his high school sweetheart, Liza, and the two moved into a home together. Rios struggled with depression stemming from his turbulent childhood, and turned to food as a way of coping with it. Between the ages of 18 and 21, Rios' weight ballooned from 180lbs to 300lbs, and Rios became so large he was unable to tie his own shoes.
During the mid-1980s, he began writing rap lyrics. He later formed the underground rap group called Full-A-Clips which included rappers Lyrical Assassin, Joker Jamz and Toom. Rios made a number of recordings with the group in the early 1990s, which have not been released. At this point Rios was operating under the alias Big Moon Dawg. After changing his stage name to Big Punisher, Rios met fellow Puerto Rican and Bronx rapper Fat Joe in 1995 and made his commercial debut on Fat Joe's second album, Jealous One's Envy, in addition to appearing on the song, "Watch Out". He also appeared on The Beatnuts' song "Off the Books"
In 1997, Big Pun began recording songs for his debut album Capital Punishment. In 1997, producer Knobody's production partner Sean C took advantage of his new role as A&R at Loud Records to play Knobody's tracks to Big Pun. Suitably impressed, the rapper hired Knobody to remix "I'm Not a Player". The remixed song, featuring Joe and titled "Still Not a Player", became Big Pun's first major mainstream hit and major breakthrough for Knobody. The full-length debut Capital Punishment followed in 1998, and became the first album by a solo Latino rapper to go platinum, peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200. Capital Punishment was also nominated for a Grammy.
Big Pun became a member of Terror Squad, a New York-based group of rappers founded by Fat Joe, with most of the roster supplied by the now-defunct Full-A-Clips who released their debut album The Album in 1999. The album did not fare well commercially but it was well received critically and the album was meant to start the foundation for all other Terror Squad members to release their solo projects.
Big Pun struggled with a weight problem for all of his adult life; at 18 he weighed 180 pounds (82 kg), but three years later he weighed close to 300 pounds (140 kg). His weight constantly fluctuated in the early 1990s between obese and morbidly obese. Big Pun later enrolled in a weight-loss program at Duke University in North Carolina in which he lost 80 pounds (36 kg), but he quit the program before completing it, returning to New York and gaining back the weight he had lost. Big Pun's weight was a constant source of argument between him and his friends, to the point that Big Pun would refuse to eat around them.
On February 5, 2000, Big Pun was scheduled to perform alongside Fat Joe and Jennifer Lopez on Saturday Night Live, but did not attend due to feeling unwell. Two days later on February 7, Pun suffered a fatal heart attack and respiratory failure while temporarily staying with his family at a Crowne Plaza in White Plains, New York, during a home renovation. Big Pun was pronounced dead at the hospital after paramedics could not revive him. Big Pun was at his highest weight at the time of his death, 698 pounds (317 kg). He was cremated a few days later. Big Pun is survived by his wife, Liza, and their three children, Amanda (born 1991), Vanessa (born 1993), and Christopher Jr. (born 1994).
His second album, Yeeeah Baby, completed after his death, was released in April 2000. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts and earned gold record status within three months of its release. A posthumous compilation album, Endangered Species, was released in April 2001. Endangered Species collected some of Pun's "greatest hits", previously unreleased material, numerous guest appearances, and remixed "greatest verses." As with his other albums, it also peaked in the top ten of the Billboard 200, reaching #7, but didn't sell as much as the previous Big Pun albums had.
Big Punisher was featured with Fat Joe on Duets: The Final Chapter, an album of tracks featuring The Notorious B.I.G., also deceased. The track "Get Your Grind On" begins with a Big Pun radio interview in which he said he would perform a duet with Biggie at the gates of heaven. Punisher was also featured on a track from the revived Terror Squad's second album, True Story, on the track "Bring 'Em Back" with Big L, another deceased rapper.
On May 2, 2001, the New York City Council stalled plans to rename a small portion of Rogers Place in honor of Big Pun because of distaste over Big Pun's lyrics, which according to The New York Times "include profanity and references to violence and drug dealing".
Sony Music Entertainment has been considering releasing a second posthumous album featuring unreleased material, but the project is being delayed by Sony. Liza Rios also held an auction in 2005 for her deceased husband's Terror Squad medallion, citing financial difficulties in the wake of Pun's death, and again claiming to have not received any royalty checks for Pun's posthumous album sales (save for a small check from the sales of Endangered Species).
A tribute documentary, Big Pun: The Legacy, was released on September 15, 2009. The film contains multiple interviews with artists, actors, close friends and others whose lives were touched by Big Pun, as well as rare exclusive performances and scene interviews with Big Pun himself. The film also features appearances by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Snoop Dogg, DMX, Method Man, U-God, Liza Rios, Xzibit, Cuban Link, Swizz Beatz, DJ Skribble, Chino XL, Redman, Papoose, Sticky Fingaz, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Killer Mike and many more. The film was directed by Vlad Yudin and is distributed through Vivendi Universal, and the soundtrack is released through Legacy Recordings/Columbia Records.
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions||Album|
|U.S.||U.S. R&B||U.S. Rap|
|1997||"I'm Not a Player"||57||19||3||Capital Punishment|
|1998||"Still Not a Player" (featuring Joe)||24||6||13|
|"You Came Up" (featuring Noreaga)||--||49||43|
|2000||"It's So Hard" (featuring Donell Jones)||75||19||11||Yeeeah Baby|
|"100%" (featuring Tony Sunshine)||--||64||--|
|2001||"How We Roll" (featuring Ashanti)||--||53||16||Endangered Species|
|2014||"Lyrically Fit (The Bigger They R)" (featuring Chris Rivers, Cormega, Shaquille O'Neal and Easy Mo Bee)||Bronx Legends Never Die EP|
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions||Album|
|US||US R&B||US Rap|
|1996||"Firewater" (Fat Joe featuring Big Pun, Raekwon, and Armaggedon)||--||116||--||Endangered Species|
|1997||"Off the Books" (The Beatnuts feat. Big Pun and Cuban Link)||86||52||12||Stone Crazy|
|"Some 1 2 Hold" (Veronica feat. Big Pun and Cuban Link)||--||101||--||Rise|
|1998||"Western Ways Part II" (Delinquent Habits feat. Big Pun and JuJu)||--||102||--||Here Come the Horns|
|"I'll Be Around" (Rah Sun feat. Big Pun and Deuce)||125||89||30||It's Not a Game|
|"Bet Ya Man Can't (Triz)" (Fat Joe feat. Big Pun, Cuban Link and Triple Seis)||--||54||37||Don Cartagena|
|1999||"From N.Y. to N.O." (Mr. Serv-On feat. Big Pun)||20||11||3||Da Next Level|
|"On Point" (Heavy D featuring 8Ball and Big Pun)||--||--||--||Heavy|
|2000||"Symphony 2000" (Truck feat. Big Pun, Kool G Rap and KRS-One)||--||--||35||Non-album single|
|"Feelin' So Good" (Jennifer Lopez feat. Fat Joe and Big Pun)||51||44||--||On the 6|
|1997||"I'm Not a Player"||David Perez Shadi|
|1998||"Twinz (Deep Cover '98)"||Chris Robinson|
|"Still Not a Player"||Darren Grant|
|"You Came Up"||Darren Grant|
|2000||"It's So Hard"||Chris Robinson|
|2001||"How We Roll"|
|1999||"Capital Punishment"||Grammy Award for Best Rap Album||Nominated|