Big Pun

Christopher Lee Rios (November 10, 1971 – February 7, 2000),[2][3] 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 came to prominence during the latter half of the decade for his work with Fat Joe and the Terror Squad. Pun's lyrics are notable for their technical efficiency, having minimal pauses to take a breath, 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.[4][5]

Big Pun
Big Pun in 1997
Background information
Birth nameChristopher Lee Rios
Also known as
  • Big Punisher
  • Big Moon Dawg
Born(1971-11-10)November 10, 1971
The South Bronx, New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedFebruary 7, 2000(2000-02-07) (aged 28)
White Plains, New York, U.S.
GenresHip hop
Occupation(s)Rapper, actor
Years active19952000[1]
LabelsLoud, Terror Squad
Associated acts

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.[6]

Early life

Christopher Lee 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 two sisters and one brother.[7][8][9] He regularly played basketball and trained in boxing for a while.[7] 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.[10] 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.[11] 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.[10][7]


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.[12] 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".

Later, "I'm Not a Player" (featuring an O'Jays sample) was supported by a significant advertising campaign and became an underground hit.

Capital Punishment (19971998)

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.[13] Suitably impressed, the rapper hired Knobody to remix "I'm Not a Player".[13] The remixed song, featuring Joe and titled "Still Not a Player", became Big Pun's first major mainstream hit and major breakthrough for Knobody.[13] The full-length debut Capital Punishment followed in 1998, and became the first album by a solo Latino rapper to go platinum,[6] peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard 200. Capital Punishment was also nominated for a Grammy.

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.

Health 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.[14] His weight fluctuated in the early 1990s between obese and morbidly obese.[14] 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.[14] His weight was a constant topic of argument among him and his friends to the point that Rios would not eat around them.[9][14]

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.[15] Rios was survived by his wife, Liza, and their three children, [16] Star, Vanessa and Christopher Jr..[17]

Posthumous works

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.[18] 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".[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]


Studio albums

Collaboration albums

Compilation albums


Title Release Peak chart positions[22] Album
"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
"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[23] Here Come the Horns
"I'll Be Around" (Rah Sun featuring Big Pun and Deuce) 125[24] 89[25] 30[26] 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[27] non-album single
"Feelin' So Good" (Jennifer Lopez featuring Fat Joe and Big Pun) 51 44 On the 6

Music videos


Release Director
"I'm Not a Player" 1997 David Perez Shadi
"Twinz (Deep Cover '98)" 1998 Chris Robinson[28]
"Still Not a Player" Darren Grant[29]
"You Came Up"
"It's So Hard" 2000 Chris Robinson[28]
"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)
  • 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

Grammy Awards

Year Nominated work Award Result
1999 "Capital Punishment" Grammy Award for Best Rap Album Nominated[30]


  1. Steve Huey. "Big Pun". AllMusic. Retrieved September 26, 2019.
  2. The Source: The Magazine of Hip-hop Music, Culture & Politics. Source Publications, Incorporated. 2000. p. 235. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  3. "Big Pun". August 9, 2017. Retrieved August 9, 2017.
  4. Top 50 MCs of Our Time: 1987 - 2007 - 50 Greatest Emcees of Our Time. (February 15, 1999). Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  5. Mike, Trader. (July 22, 2003) 22 Greatest MCs Archived April 1, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Blogcritics. Retrieved on 2013-07-26.
  6. "Gold & Platinum - Big Pun". RIAA. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
  7. "It's So Hard: Big Pun's Widow Liza Rios Speaks on His Life, Death, and Legacy - Mass Appeal". April 3, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  8. Valdes, Mimi (August 1998). "Pound for Pound". Vibe. 6 (8): 108–111.
  9. Huey, Steve (2002). "Big Punisher > Biography". Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  10. "The Rise And Fall of Big Pun". April 13, 2015. Retrieved November 22, 2017.
  11. "Big Pun Lawsuit". Dead Poetz Bio. Dead Poetz. Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved October 19, 2011.
  12. Stavan, Ilan (July 29, 2014). Latin Music: Musicians, Genres, and Themes. ABC-CLIO. p. 332. ISBN 9780313343964.
  13. "Interview With Knobody". HitQuarters. September 27, 2005. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
  14. "Big Punisher Weighed 700 Pounds, Had Enlarged Heart". SonicNet. February 8, 2000. Archived from the original on March 2, 2000. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  15. Pareles, Jon (February 9, 2000). "Christopher Rios, 28, Rapper Recorded Under Name Big Punisher". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  16. "Star Rios (Big Pun's Daughter) - The First Born (Documentary)". DoggieDiamondsTV. December 30, 2016. Retrieved November 2, 2019.
  17. Harling, Danielle (June 5, 2013). "Chris Rivers". Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  18. Juon, Steve (December 20, 2005). "Notorious B.I.G: Duets: The Final Chapter". Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  19. Cardwell, Diane (May 2, 2001). "Bronx: No Street For Big Pun". The New York Times. Retrieved December 20, 2008.
  20. Petipas, Jolene (July 5, 2006). "Producer Delays Release of New Big Pun Album". Archived from the original on July 17, 2006. Retrieved November 17, 2017.
  21. Cherry, Carl (June 29, 2005). "Big Pun's Terror Squad Medallion on Sale at eBay for Diddely". Archived from the original on September 9, 2006. Retrieved May 5, 2018.
  22. "Big Punisher > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". allmusic. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
  23. "Western Ways Part II". Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles. Billboard. September 26, 1998. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
  24. "I'll Be Around". Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles. Billboard. September 26, 1998. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
  25. "I'll Be Around". Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Billboard. October 3, 1998. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
  26. "I'll Be Around". Hot Rap Singles. Billboard. November 7, 1998. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
  27. "Symphony 2000". Hot Rap Singles. Billboard. October 30, 1999. Retrieved July 15, 2009.
  28. "Chris Robinson". Retrieved May 17, 2010.
  29. 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.
  30. "CNN - 41st annual Grammy nominees - January 5, 1999". Retrieved March 3, 2017.
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