One of the legends I covered extensively yet never had the chance to meet personally was BIG PUN. An MC who had all the natural talent and skill sets to easily match him against any legend that ever rhymed. He is probably the greatest influence upon MCs of the underground since 2000. Despite the reverse racism [a word best used and applied here for when our own people separate each other] that often was the main culprit for this Original man via Puerto Rico/Brooklyn to not get work, I missed directly building with PUN. This despite PUN being Boricua and thus under the niche I was expected to solely cover. I had just covered the entire Terror Squad (minus PUN) for an unpublished Vibe story and a well published Our SWords feature [Our SWords (Our Sacred WORDS was my 1st magazine as Editor-In-Chief and co-publisher with Dasun Allah] .
Going back to writing the review of his debut, Capital Punishment, for XXL [my grade was higher than the published], I continue to see PUN as the most underrated, insufficiently studied and ignored legendary MC. He is often dismissed as a mere champion of we Puerto Ricans or proof that Latinos can rap. Yet we have long since stripped the borders of pathetic revisionist history where I have had to explain to magazine top editors that Latinos are co-creators in Hip Hop culture. Now we may easily fill books with the well skilled to the superior MCs of Latino descent emerging since 2000 (i.e. Thirstin Howl the 3rd, Joell Ortiz, Spit Gemz, Bugsy Da God, Timeless Truth, Shaz Illyork, J-Love, Brotherhood 603, Eff Yoo, AG Da Coroner, Outerspace, Tek Bully, Cue-Roc, Nutso, Nems, Termanology, Starker, etc.) so now then? MCs as PUN that have returned to the essence, merit a real thorough build on their work. For this writer there is much more history of original analysis of PUN, ideas shared and bitten, published and useful and that which has just been unlettered to come through the upcoming Sunset Style book and these tough digi-scrolls of Premiere Hip Hop…
Below is a reprint originally published on Hookt.com, circa February 15th, 2000, as I covered the wake of the late great BIG PUN RIP….
For those Latinos living in the ghettos of New York City from Sunset Park, Brooklyn to the South Bronx, The Ortiz Funeral Home has, all too often, been the site for premature goodbyes to our loved ones. Things remained the same this past Thursday and Friday as loving fans of the late Christopher Rios, known as Big Punisher, paid their final respects to one of Hip Hop music’s greatest MCs at South Bronx’s Ortiz Funeral Home.
Upon making one’s exit from the Castlehill Avenue train station, on the #6 line, headed to 2121 Westchester Avenue, one could sadly sense the somber vibe before reaching the wake on the corner of Union Port Road and Castlehill. Despite the high profile essence of the event and those outside the Hip Hop world expecting a wild celebration of Pun’s life, the youngest of Black and Latino Pun fans solemnly took their journey through the many police barricades that forced one to walk across the street of the funeral home to reach the barricaded lines. By Friday’s nightfall, as fans continued to make a seemingly lengthy and useless walk to the very end of the barricaded lines without complaint, it all became an apparent reflection of the immense respect for Fat Joe’s wishes that Pun’s wake be a peaceful and civil event.
The relative silence continued as the line was advanced in groups, with an overabundance of police officers directing, and only broken by the many cars blasting Pun hits from “Still Not a Playa” to “Twinz (Deep Cover ’98).” Watching an even showing of Blacks and Latinos, from the Bronx to Brooklyn, one couldn’t help but reminisce and realize that Pun’s legendary abilities helped solidify the original union of Blacks and Latinos in Hip Hop music and culture and put Hip Hop’s birthplace, the Bronx, back on the map.
Upon entering, once could see various Terror Squad members assuring the comfortability of Pun’s loved ones and directing fans to the first of the three rooms. The most difficult step was the incurred next, as fans clutched the small, two sided colored photo cards reading “BIG PUN – TS FOREVER” and “Christopher Lee Rios- Rest in Peace” on the other, to finally view the body. As expected, it was all done with love and an appropriate distance. By this late Friday hour, the weariness and stress of this ordeal was expressed without word by Cuban Link who sat across from Pun’s coffin pondering.
Reality began to take its necessary place in mind as one walked past the second and third rooms, the second containing a vast array of floral arrangements, bouquets and a large canvas painted ‘In Memory of PUN’ and the other a more private retreat for Pun’s loved ones. Walking out toward the backway of the infamous Ortiz Funeral Home, personal thoughts take prominence and wonders that Big Punisher was much like your very own relatives who have passed on before they should have. With a n incredible talent miraculously displayed, in only two years, with greater potential to be realized, Pun expressed himself the same as we do – his very best through our Hip Hop culture.
May he be REMEMBERED IN PERFECTION always…