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Big Pun
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro American rapper
A.K.A. Christopher Rios
Was Actor Rapper Musician
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music
Gender male
Birth 9 November 1971, The Bronx, New York City, New York, USA
Death 7 February 2000, White Plains, Westchester County, New York, USA (aged 28 years)
Star sign Scorpio
Spouse: Liza Rios
Children: Chris Rivers
Height: 1.71 m
Hip hop music
The details


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. Emerging from the underground hip hop scene in The Bronx borough of New York City, in the early 1990s, he was the first Latino rapper to have an album certified platinum as a solo act. He first appeared on tracks from Fat Joe's second album "Jealous One's Envy" in 1995, and The Beatnuts' second album Stone Crazy in 1997, prior to signing to Loud Records as a solo artist. Pun's lyrics are notable for technical efficiency, having minimal pauses to take a breath, heavy use of alliteration as well as internal and multi-syllabic rhyming schemes. 

He is widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers of all time. About.com ranked him #25 on its list of the 50 Greatest MCs of All Time, while MTV2 ranked him #11 on its list of the "22 Greatest MCs." In 2012, The Source ranked him #19 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time.

Early life

Christopher Lee Rios was born on November 10, 1971, in The Bronx, New York, to parents of Puerto Rican descent. He grew up in the South Bronx neighborhood of the city. At the age of five, Rios broke his leg while playing in a park, which would later lead to a large settlement from the city. By all accounts from Pun's family, his early years were very difficult, including witnessing his mother's drug abuse and his father's death.

Music career

Career Beginnings 1992-1996

During the mid-1980s, he began writing rap lyrics. He later formed the underground rap group called Full-A-Clips which included rappers Lyrical Assassin, Joker Jamz, and Toom. Rios made a number of recordings with the group in the early '90s, which have not been released. At this point, Rios was operating under the alias "Big Moon Dawg." After changing the alias 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 1997-1998

In 1996, 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 a 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 #5 on the Billboard 200. Capital Punishment was also nominated for a Grammy.

The Terror Squad Collaboration Album 1999

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.


Pun struggled with a weight problem for all of his adult life. His weight fluctuated in the early 1990s between obese and morbidly obese. Pun later enrolled in a weight-loss program in North Carolina in which he lost 80 pounds (36 kg), 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 while temporarily staying with his family at a Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains, New York, during a home renovation. Pun was pronounced dead at the hospital after paramedics could not revive him. Big Pun was at his highest weight at the time of his death: 698 pounds (317 kg). He was cremated a few days later. Big Pun is survived by his wife, Liza, and their three children, Amanda (born 1991), Vanessa (born 1993), and Christopher Jr. (born 1994).

Posthumous works

Big Pun's second album, Yeeeah Baby, completed after 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 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 #7, but didn't sell as much as the previous Pun albums had.

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, also deceased.

On May 2, 2001, the New York City Council stalled plans to rename a small portion of Rogers Place in honor of Big Pun because of distaste over Big Pun's lyrics, which according to The New York Times "include profanity and references to violence and drug dealing".

Sony Music Entertainment has been considering releasing a second posthumous album featuring unreleased material, but the project is being delayed by Sony. His wife, 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).

Big Pun: The Legacy documentary

A tribute documentary, Big Pun: The Legacy (directed by Vlad Yudin) was released on September 15, 2009. The film contains multiple interviews with artists, actors, close friends, and others whose lives were touched by Big Pun, as well as rare exclusive performances and scene interviews with Big Pun himself. The film also features appearances by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Snoop DoggDMXMethod ManU-GodLiza RiosXzibitCuban LinkSwizz BeatzDJ SkribbleChino XLRedmanPapooseSticky FingazGhostface KillahRaekwonKiller Mike and many more. The film was distributed through Vivendi Universal and the soundtrack is released through Legacy Recordings/Columbia Records.


Studio album

  • Capital Punishment (1998)

Posthumous studio album

  • Yeeeah Baby (2000)

Compilation albums

  • The Album (1999)
  • Endangered Species (2001)


Title Release Peak chart positions Album 
US US R&B US Rap    
"I'm Not a Player" 1997 57 19 Capital Punishment 
"Still Not a Player" (featuring Joe1998 24 13 
"You Came Up" (featuring Noreaga— 49 43 
"It's So Hard" (featuring Donell Jones2000 75 19 11 Yeeeah Baby 
"100%" (featuring Tony Sunshine— 64 — 
"How We Roll" (featuring Ashanti2001 — 53 16 Endangered Species 
"Lyrically Fit (The Bigger They R)" (featuring Chris Rivers, Cormega, Shaquille O'Neal and Easy Mo Bee2014    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 Link1997 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 Da Next Level 
"On Point" (Heavy D featuring 8Ball and Big Pun) — — — Heavy 
"Symphony 2000" (Truck featuring Big Pun, Kool G Rap and KRS-One2000 — — 35 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 
"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)
  • 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 
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