Chris Rivers isn’t Baby Pun. He is no miniature version of his father—the legend BIG PUN. Rivers is the child of his father, a son of man with his father’s natural dexterity, sharing his charismatic traits and overbearing battle power on a track. PUN’s natural talent, if not his too-short catalog, easily making him one of the greatest MCs of all time is supposed to occur once in a lifetime. For these gifts to be possessed by his son is no mere genetic logic. PUN’s talent reached its peak through excessive study and practice. On Chris River’s debut mixtape, Wonderland of Misery, he reveals this talent, reached through genetics and developed skill of years of practice, at an aged 19 years old.
Chris Rivers isn’t just a legendary MC’s son. He is a young man whose family has been covered by media, whose reality was impacted by the gossip of behind-the-scenes business that weak journalists exposed. This writer remembers blocking the PUN 2005 The Source cover piece from delving into this gossip but I only held a dam with a finger. So Rivers grew up in the Bronx without some of the hells his father didn’t want on his children but experienced so many more. And now it happens to be relevant because we poor consumers will now find his homelessness, his poverty, his experiences of the same racism and oppression we Boricuas suffer relevant. Important now as of the release of Wonderland of Misery because he is not merely a young man excelling in his father’s trade. He is an artist that needs to express his visions of and through hell. And these portraits are filled with the rare precociousness of excellence.
His breath control is at a level that easily makes him one of the most powerful MCs rhyming today. From the beat change tours of “Lyrical Catastrophy” and “Dragon Born,” his fluidity to never lose his astonishing pace on the switches, fluctuate his pitch on punchlines all while offering complex bar structures. The supreme flow that Rivers works on cut phrases (“Reason 2 Hate”), volume raging monotone (“Love Em’ All”), double time flows (“Something Missing”) and constantly writing his bars in perfect syllabic patterns on slower tempos (“Enjoy the Atmosphere”) or upper tempos (“Bitter Sweet”).
Many of the knowing have told me about the precociousness of PUN’s gifts yet the potential in Rivers is just as strong and in areas unique to his father. Rivers is an expert storyteller when told through the sight of one’s emotions. While “I’m Me” reveals a sincerity and a willingness to expose himself, tracks as “I Can’t See It” and “Innocence” possess an introspection that is just as insightful and ruggedly beautiful (“I think life just needs defining and this world just needs refining/Need to read between the lines/Not spread lies and then defiance/Spread some peace and love and science and the knowledge to apply it/Realize each of us are small but as a unit we are giant/I am making my deposit but I’m withdrawing my conscious/Cause I put my heart into it but my brain is still deciding/I am drowning in this silence…” – “Innocence”). Ultimately, his bar-red perceptions are strong by politically and socially giving an understanding that goes back to the true answer –the self.
These tormented soul songs do not suffer from a display of skill, talent and charisma—the reason why he achieves a rare balance his father did have. Rivers’ works are hell brawls on wax to share a love for people while his charisma is understated and wry. Lost love tracks as “Show Me Love” touch a deep heartbreak that reflects more vulnerability in pain and frustration than most. In fact, compared with PUN’s “Punish Me,” Rivers’ punctuates his work with a detail of emotional trials that is rare. However, his viciousness is sharp (“Check the credentials/my shit is existential/essential/ to raising mentals/ and written with golden pencils…” – “Here We Go”) yet magnetic in that cipher (“He Ain’t No Good”).
Beatwise, comparisons ironically can run closer. The majority of the hardcore is the big beat digi sound that dominated the early 00’s and defined Big Pun’s Yeeeahh Baby album. All of the tracks are hard showing a matching approach to his intentions. Rivers never needs to pick beats based on what he can rhyme over, via conflicting sound, tempos or overpowering sound aspects—there is no limitation. However, simply put, every great track he selects reflects his realness to the legacy that he will create.
It will all be a legacy not because he is Pun’s son but because he is the son of a legend displaying the same technical superiority that can reveal deeper elevations. This writer knows there are only a few who can MC this well and if he is not given a clear lane to display his developing talent then Hip Hop music will absolutely suffer what it never will receive.