Big Pun’s record speaks for itself. His career as a rapper is an indispensable part of the rap game and the larger hip-hop culture. By 1997, the rapper was already a big name in the underground rap scene and had already done some high profile features on the projects of big names like Fat Joe, The Beatnuts, and Flesh-N-Bone. He eventually signed his first professional record deal in the same year with Loud Records.
Big Pun holds the record as the first ever Latino emcee to have a solo project achieve platinum certification. His lyrical dexterity and multi-syllabic rhyming style earned him praise from many corners. In the years since his death, publications and networks like About.com, MTV2, and The Source have named him on their respective lists profiling the greatest rappers of all time. One can only wonder the height he could have reached had his life not been cut short.
Who is Big Pun? Bio, Age
The 90’s rapper was born Christopher Rios Lee to Puerto Rican parents in The Bronx, New York City, on November 10, 1971. The emcee who is reported to have had at least three siblings had a tough childhood. In his teens, he dabbled in basketball and boxing but couldn’t seem to make a headway in either. When he turned 15, Big Pun moved out of his mother’s house. At some point in the late 80s, Christopher was homeless and struggled with depression due to his childhood experiences.
He had suffered an injury to his leg at the age of 5 while playing at a city park. As a result, the city offered him a sizable settlement. It was with this money that he got married to Liza, his high school sweetheart. They moved into a house together but things did not go well.
Unlike most others, however, his drug of choice for coping with it was food. By the time Rios was 21, he had more than doubled his weight from 180 lbs at the age of 18 to 300 lbs. For the young man, this resulted in his being unable to tie his own shoes.
Big Pun ventured into rap when he began penning lyrics in the mid-80s. Operating under the moniker Big Moon Dawg, he went on to form a rap group known as Full-A-Clips with three other friends: Joker Jamz, Toom, and Lyrical Assassin. The group recorded a number of unreleased songs in the early 90s.
Christopher who had changed his stage name to Big Punisher met rapper Fat Joe. The two men formed an instant friendship due to their similarities; they were both residing in the Bronx and were both from Puerto Rico. In 1995, he was on Fat Joe’s sophomore album Jealous One’s Envy. This collaboration brought him some much needed commercial attention. In the next two years, he was involved in albums by The Beatnuts (Stone Crazy) and Flesh-N-Bones (T.H.U.G.S.). He also debuted his first “I’m Not a Player” that became a huge underground hit and peaked at No. 57 on the Billboard 100.
After signing a record deal with Loud Records, Big Pun released his debut album Capital Punishment in 1998. It was a massive success. The album was nominated for a Grammy and peaked at No.5 on the Billboard 200. The album would eventually go platinum.
Pun’s enduring relationship with Fat Joe saw him become a part of the rapper’s emcee stable. They rap group was known as Terror Squad and released their first project in 1999 titled creatively titled The Album. The idea was for the group’s success to launch the solo careers of all of its members, most of who were from Big Pun’s former group, The Full-A-Clips. The Album received positive reviews but did not fare well commercially.
In the midst of all the success, Christopher’s demons were still haunting him. His weight had become a serious issue of concern even among his friends. At some point in his early twenties, he alternated between obese and morbidly obese. He signed up for a weight loss programme at Duke University. The programme helped him lose about 36 kg (80 lbs). Unfortunately, the rapper opted out of the programme prematurely and consequently regained the weight.
Death and Posthumous Achievements
The rapper was slated to appear on an episode of Saturday Night Live alongside his friend Fat Joe and singer Jennifer Lopez on February 5, 2000. However, he fell ill and had to withdraw from the planned appearance. Two days later, he suffered a heart attack and respiratory failure while spending time with his family. He was promptly whisked to a hospital but it proved too late for him as the paramedics found no success in their attempt to revive him. He was 28 years old at the time of his death and weighed a massive 317 kg (698 lbs).
Big “Christopher” Pun was working on his followup album at the time of his death. Two months after his passing, the album titled Yeeeah Baby was released to huge success. It reached the No. 3 spot on the Billboard charts and was certified gold three months after release. A year later, the album Endangered Species was released. It was a compilation of the rapper’s greatest songs, some of his unreleased works, and remixes of his best verses and features. Endangered Species peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200.
There was also the Duets: The Final Chapter album which involved Big Pun, Fat Joe, and Notorious B.I.G.
In May 2001, there were plans to rename a city property in Big Pun’s honor, however, the New York City Council stalled the plans citing distaste over the profanity and vices being encouraged in the rapper’s lyrics. In 2009, a tribute documentary was filmed and released titled Big Pun: The Legacy.
Big Pun’s Wife, Son (Chris Rivers)
The Bronx emcee had married his longtime girlfriend Liza in his late teens. Together they had given birth to three children. The first child Amanda was born in 1991. The second Vanessa was born in 1993 and Christopher Jr. followed in 1994.
Christopher Jr. better known as Chris Rivers started his music career in 2002, two years after Big Pun’s death. Going by the name Baby Pun, he was part of a short-lived group called 3 Down. Going by the name Chris Rivers, he took his rap career seriously from the age of eighteen and has released over six projects. Rivers, whose style has been said to be similar to that of his father, has worked with names like Joell Ortiz, Chino XL, and the Wu-Tang Clan.
Four years after Big Pun’s passing, Liza put up his custom Terror Squad medallion for auction on eBay. She revealed she was having financial difficulties and was not receiving any royalties from his album sales.
During his lifetime and even in death, the emcee’s weight has been a topic for debate for a long time, eclipsing talk about any other of his body stats. The rapper stood at a height of 5 feet 7 inches (1.71 m).