Big Pun in 1997
|Birth name||Christopher Lee Rios|
|Also known as||Big Punisher|
|Born||November 10, 1971|
New York City, U.S.
|Died||February 7, 2000 (aged 28)|
White Plains, New York, U.S.
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 and songwriter. Pun's lyrics are notable for their technical efficiency, having exceptional breath control, heavy use of alliteration, as well as internal and multi-syllabic rhyming schemes. He is frequently cited as one of the best MCs of all time. Emerging from the underground hip hop scene in the Bronx borough of New York City in the early 1990s, he came to prominence during the latter half of the decade for his work with Fat Joe and the Terror Squad.
Big Pun was initially discovered by Fat Joe, and made his earliest appearance on Fat Joe's 1995 album Jealous One's Envy. In 1997, he signed with Loud Records as a solo artist, and released his Grammy-nominated debut studio album Capital Punishment in April 1998 to critical acclaim and commercial success, peaking at #5 on the Billboard 200 and becoming the first solo hip hop record by a Latino artist to go Platinum.
Christopher Lee Rios was born 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 two sisters and one 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. Later, he 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 his 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 late 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".
Capital Punishment (1997–1998)
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 No. 5 on the Billboard 200. Capital Punishment was also nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album.
The Terror Squad collaboration album (1999–2000)
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.
Weight issues and death
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, Star, Vanessa and Christopher Jr.
Big Pun's second album, Yeeeah Baby, completed after his death, was released in April 2000. It peaked at No. 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 No. 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.
- Capital Punishment (1998)
Posthumous studio album
- Yeeeah Baby (2000)
|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|
As featured performer
|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|
- Moesha (1998) - Himself (as Big Punisher)
- Thicker Than Water (1999) - Punny
- Urban Menace (1999) - Crow
- Whiteboyz (1999) - Don Flip Crew (uncredited)
- Boricua's Bond (2000) - Himself (as Big Punisher)
- Big Pun: Still Not a Player (2002) - Himself (archive footage)
- Big Pun Live (2002) - Himself (archive footage)
- Big Pun: The Legacy (2007) - Himself (archive footage)
Awards and nominations
|1999||"Capital Punishment"||Grammy Award for Best Rap Album||Nominated|
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- "Western Ways Part II". Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles. Billboard. September 26, 1998. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
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- "Chris Robinson". MVDBase.com. Archived from the original on February 12, 2010. Retrieved May 17, 2010.
- Grant, Darren (director); Big Pun (performer); Joe (performer) (2000). Still Not a Player (Music video). Loud Records. Archived from the original on January 1, 2014.
- "CNN - 41st annual Grammy nominees - January 5, 1999". Archived from the original on May 1, 2017. Retrieved March 3, 2017.