Big Pun in 1997
|Christopher Lee Rios|
|Pun; Big Punisher|
November 10, 1971|
New York City, New York, U.S.
February 7, 2000 (aged 28)|
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 debuted as a guest rapper on Fat Joe's 1995 album Jealous One's Envy, then appeared on Flesh-N-Bone's solo album T.H.U.G.S. in 1996 and The Beatnuts' 1997 album Stone Crazy before signing with 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.
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.
Christopher 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 he was consequently unable to tie his own shoes.
During the mid-1980s, he began writing rap lyrics. He later formed the underground group Full-A-Clips with 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.
Rios struggled with weight issues his entire adult life. He weighed 180 pounds (82 kg) at age 18, which increased to 300 pounds (140 kg) at 21. His weight fluctuated in the early 1990s between obese and morbidly obese. Rios enrolled in a weight-loss program at Duke University and shed 80 pounds (36 kg), but he prematurely quit the program and eventually regained the weight. His weight was a constant topic of argument among him and his friends to the point that Rios would not eat around them.
On February 5, 2000, Rios withdrew from a planned Saturday Night Live performance with Fat Joe and Jennifer Lopez due to illness. Two days later while staying at a hotel with his family in White Plains, New York, he suffered a heart attack and respiratory failure and was taken to a hospital, where he died at the age of 28 after paramedics were unable to revive him. His weight had reached a peak of 698 pounds (317 kg) at the time of his death. Rios was survived by his wife, Liza, and their three children, Amanda (born 1991), Vanessa (born 1993), and Christopher Jr. (born 1994).
Big Pun's 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. He collaborated 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. Pun 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 as a tribute, due to distaste over Big Pun's lyrics that "include[d] profanity and references to violence and drug dealing".
A second posthumous album was planned for release by Sony Music Entertainment in 2006 but was shelved due to a dispute with producer John "Jellybean" Benitez, who owned the publishing rights to many of the intended album's tracks. In June 2005, Liza Rios put her husband's $100,000 custom Terror Squad medallion up for auction on eBay, citing financial difficulties due to receiving no royalties from Pun's album sales.
A tribute documentary, Big Pun: The Legacy, was released in September 2009.
|Title||Release||Peak chart positions||Album|
|US||US R&B||US Rap|
|"I'm Not a Player"||1997||57||19||3||Capital Punishment|
|"Still Not a Player" (featuring Joe)||1998||24||6||13|
|"You Came Up" (featuring Noreaga)||--||49||43|
|"It's So Hard" (featuring Donell Jones)||2000||75||19||11||Yeeeah Baby|
|"100%" (featuring Tony Sunshine)||--||64||--|
|"How We Roll" (featuring Ashanti)||2001||--||53||16||Endangered Species|
|"Lyrically Fit (The Bigger They R)" (featuring Chris Rivers, Cormega, Shaquille O'Neal and Easy Mo Bee)||2014||Bronx Legends Never Die EP|
|Title||Release||Peak chart positions||Album|
|US||US R&B||US Rap|
|"Firewater" (Fat Joe featuring Big Pun, Raekwon, and Armaggedon)||1996||--||116||--||Endangered Species|
|"Off the Books" (The Beatnuts featuring Big Pun and Cuban Link)||1997||86||52||12||Stone Crazy|
|"Some 1 2 Hold" (Veronica featuring Big Pun and Cuban Link)||--||101||--||Rise|
|"Western Ways Part II" (Delinquent Habits featuring Big Pun and JuJu)||1998||--||102||--||Here Come the Horns|
|"I'll Be Around" (Rah Sun featuring Big Pun and Deuce)||125||89||30||It's Not a Game|
|"Bet Ya Man Can't (Triz)" (Fat Joe featuring Big Pun, Cuban Link and Triple Seis)||--||54||37||Don Cartagena|
|"From N.Y. to N.O." (Mr. Serv-On featuring Big Pun)||1999||20||11||3||Da Next Level|
|"On Point" (Heavy D featuring 8Ball and Big Pun)||--||--||--||Heavy|
|"Symphony 2000" (Truck featuring Big Pun, Kool G Rap and KRS-One)||2000||--||--||35||non-album single|
|"Feelin' So Good" (Jennifer Lopez featuring Fat Joe and Big Pun)||51||44||--||On the 6|
|"I'm Not a Player"||1997||David Perez Shadi|
|"Twinz (Deep Cover '98)"||1998||Chris Robinson|
|"Still Not a Player"||Darren Grant|
|"You Came Up"|
|"It's So Hard"||2000||Chris Robinson|
|"How We Roll"||2001|
|1999||"Capital Punishment"||Grammy Award for Best Rap Album||Nominated|