Christopher Lee Rios
- February 7
), better known as Big Punisher
or Big Pun
, was a Puerto Rican 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 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.
Born in The Bronx
of Puerto Rican
descent during the early years of hip-hop, Christopher Lee Rios grew up enjoying basketball
, and other sports. He met his wife Liza in the eighth grade. At the age of five, he broke his leg in a Manhattan municipal park
, resulting in a lawsuit
against the City of New York, later settled out of court
. He received a lot of money in compensation. By all accounts from Pun's family, his early years were very difficult, including witnessing his mother's drug abuse
, his father leaving the family, and a stepfather who was very hard on Pun. According to his grandmother, Pun would become angry and self-destructive, punching holes in the walls of his family's apartment. . At the age of 17, Rios dropped out of Adlai E. Stevenson High School (New York City) and for some time was homeless, staying in abandoned buildings or at friends' homes. Pun started going by his name after his childhood friend nicknamed Punisher was killed.
Sometime during the '80s, he formed the Full a Clips Crew
with Triple Seis
, Prospect and Cuban Link
who was at the time named "Lyrical Assassin". At this point Big Pun was operating under the alias Big Moon Dawg. Rios met fellow Puerto Rican and Bronx rapper Fat Joe
in 1995 and made his commercial debut on Joe's second album, Jealous Ones Still Envy
, in addition to appearing on a b-side to Joe's "Envy" single, "Fire Water" and "Watch Out."
Later, "I'm Not a Player" (featuring an O'Jays sample) was supported by a significant advertising campaign and became an underground hit. The song's remix, "Still Not a Player" (featuring Joe) produced by Knobody, became Big Pun's first major mainstream hit. His full-length debut Capital Punishment followed in 1998, and was 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, but lost out on the award to Jay-Z's Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life. He became a member of The 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 Crew who released their debut album The Album in 1999.
In 1999 he co-starred in the Albert Pyun-directed ghetto-movie Urban Menace, alongside his frequent collaborator Fat Joe.
Despite his athletic adolescence
, Big Pun struggled with his weight for most of his life; his weight fluctuated in the early 1990s between obese
and morbidly obese
. Big Pun enrolled in a weight-loss program in North Carolina, in which he lost 100 pounds, but he eventually quit the program before completing it, returning to New York and gaining back the weight he had lost. On February 7, 2000, Big Pun suffered a fatal heart attack and respiratory failure in a hotel, Crowne Plaza, in White Plains, New York
His second album, Yeeeah Baby
, completed before his death, was issued as scheduled in April 2000. It peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts and earned gold record
status within three months of its release. A second posthumous
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 Pun albums had.
In recent times, 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.
Sony Records 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).
Still Not a Player documentary
In 2002, Pun's widow, Liza Rios, released a documentary about her late husband, Still Not A Player
. The film features commentary from many of Pun's close friends and family members, details the struggles with his weight, and also reveals how at times, Pun would become physically abusive with his wife - in one scene, he is caught on camera while pistol whipping
her. The release of the documentary and its content caused a falling out between Fat Joe
and Rios, as Rios repeatedly claimed to have not received any royalties from the sales of Endangered Species
, which was where the proceeds from that album's sales were designed to go.
Big Pun: The Legacy documentary
A new tribute documentary Big Pun: The Legacy
is currently in post-production. The film will contain multiple interviews with artists, actors, close friends and others whose lives were touched by Big Pun, as well as rare exclusive performances and behind the scenes interviews with Big Pun himself. The film will feature appearance by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony
, Snoop Dogg
, Rosie Perez
, Method Man
, Liza Rios, Xzibit
, Cuban Link
, Swizz Beatz
and many more. This Film should be released by 2008.
- 1997 "I'm Not a Player" - 57 US, 19 Hip-Hop/R&B Charts
- 1998 "Still Not a Player" (featuring Joe) - 24 US, 3 Hip-Hop/R&B Charts
- 1998 "Twinz (Deep Cover 98)" (featuring Fat Joe) song is featured in Saints Row 2
- 1998 "You Came Up" (featuring Noreaga) - 49 Hip-Hop/R&B Charts
- 1999 "Whatcha Gon Do" (Terror Squad)
- 2000 "100%" (featuring Tony Sunshine) - 85 US
- 2000 "It's So Hard" (featuring Donell Jones) - 75 US, 19 Hip-Hop/R&B Charts
- 2001 "How We Roll (Remix)" (featuring Ashanti) - 53 Hip-Hop/R&B Charts