10 November 1971
The Bronx, New York, New York, United States
7 February 2000 (aged 28)
Christopher Lee Rios (November 9, 1971 - February 7, 2000), better known as Big Pun or Big Punisher, was a Puerto Rican American rapper who emerged from the underground rap scene in The Bronx in the late 1990s. He first appeared on albums from The Beatnuts on the track "Off the Books" and on Fat Joe's second album in 1995, Jealous One's Envy, on the track "Watch Out", prior to signing to Loud Records as a solo artist. Big Pun's career was cut short in 2000 at age 28 by a fatal heart attack due to his obesity. He is survived by a wife, Liza Rios, and three children. Big Pun was the first solo Latino rapper to sell over one million LPs. His first stage name was Big Moon Dawg. His name comes from the Marvel comic book anti-hero The Punisher.
Born in the Bronx during the early years of hip-hop, Christopher Rios grew up in an athletic tradition, enjoying basketball, boxing, and other sports. At the age of five, he broke his leg in a Manhattan municipal park, which would later (after several minimum wage jobs in New York and Miami, where he briefly relocated) net him a settlement from the city, to the tune of $500,000. At the age of 15, Pun dropped out of Stevenson High School. Sometime during the '80s, Rios began to write rap lyrics, forming the Full A Clips Crew with Triple Seis, Cuban Link, and Prospect. After meeting fellow Puerto Rican and Bronx rapper Fat Joe, in 1995, Pun became increasingly associated with him, making his commercial debut on Fat Joe's second album, Jealous Ones Envy (J.O.E.).
After an advertising blitz, "I'm Not a Player" (featuring an O'Jays sample) was an underground hit. The song's remix, "Still Not a Player" (featuring Joe), became Big Pun's first major mainstream hit. His full-length debut, Capital Punishment, followed in 1998, and was the first album by a Latino rapper (and a Latino solo artist) to go platinum. Around this time, Big Pun became a member of The Terror Squad, a New-York-based group of Latino rappers founded by Fat Joe, with most of the roster supplied by the now-defunct Full A Clips Crew.
Big Pun was also a member of the Digging in the Crates Crew, alongside Fat Joe and various New York hip-hop legends such as Diamond D, Lord Finesse, Big L, and O.C.
Due to issues with his broken leg and drug abuse, Pun's health declined during these years. The once-athletic man struggled with overeating problems and weight issues for several years, his weight bounding between 450 and 700 pounds (200 and 300 kg). Though he checked into a North Carolina weight loss clinic and lost 80 pounds (35 kg), the final effort was not enough to save Pun's health. At the age of 28, on February 7, 2000, Big Pun died of a heart attack at 700 lbs. (300 kg).
Big Pun's second album, Yeeeah Baby, was already scheduled to be released at the time of his death, and was issued in March 2000. A second posthumous album, Endangered Species, was released in 2001, a collection of "greatest hits," new material, guest appearances, and remixed "greatest verses."
Pun's supporters generally praise him for his complex rhyme schemes, intricate wordplay, ability to stay on-beat, and relentless flow and breath control (despite his immense size, which would generally render his complex phrasing too difficult).
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