When you think of Hip-Hop in the late ’90s, it’s impossible for Big Pun not to cross your mind at some point. Coming in the game under the wing of fellow Hispanic rhymer Fat Joe, the Bronx bred golden child would go on to become one of the game’s biggest stars seemingly overnight due to his lyrical precision, witty humor, and charismatic nature.
Although we were only blessed with his presence for a brief period of time, there’s no debate that his stamp on the culture will forever be official, and he is a first ballot Hall Of Fame artist in the eyes of the Hip-Hop community. With that said, we’d like to present to you the “10 Big Pun Songs Everyone Should Know.” Enjoy.
1. “I’m Not A Player”
Following standout appearances on Fat Joe’s “Fire Water” and the Beatnuts’ “Off The Books,” Big Punisher inked a solo deal with Steve Rifkind’s Loud Records. Soon after, Pun would release his debut single, “I’m Not A Player,” produced by Minnesota and Raul “RAZ” Zeballos. Utilizing a track powered by a sample of the O’Jay’s “Darlin’ Darlin’ Baby (Sweet Tender Love),” the heavyweight lyricist spit clever sweet nothings and dirty one liners for the ladies, all the while never sacrificing his signature rapid fire flow. Yearning to sing to their ‘love below’ among other scandalous deeds, though claiming not to be a player, this base line drive of a record was promising evidence that he would be a major player in the rap game for the immediate future.
2. “Still Not A Player”
With his previous performances making him one to watch among Hip-Hop heads in the know, this smash hit would introduce Big Pun to the masses. Produced by Loud A&R and budding boardsman Knobody and featuring R&B crooner Joe, “Still Not A Player” was released in the spring of 1998 and instantly dominated radio and video countdowns. Taking his notorious machine gun flow down a few notches, Pun proved that he was capable of concocting a catchy tune for the mainstream as well as bruising tutorials in rhyming technique.
Peaking at #24 on the Hot 100 and #6 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts, the song single-handedly turned Big Pun into a household name and was a major factor in him becoming the first Latin rapper with a Platinum album on his resume. One of the biggest classics from the late ’90s and a party staple til this day, Pun made sure his name would be etched in the history books forever and had everyone chanting “Boriqua, Morena” by the end of 1998.
“I gave you fair warning, beware.” With that rallying cry via a Mobb Deep sample, Big Pun proceeded to kick off the proceedings for his debut’s opening salvo, the Juju produced “Beware.” On top of a sinister beat containing a sample of Henry Mancini’s “Theme For Loser,” the Bronx bomber pummeled the track with haymakers like “Flawless victory, y’all n*ggas can’t do shit to me/Physically, lyrically, hypothetically, realistically, I’m the epitome of catching wreck/Catch when you cash ya’ check, smash when you pass and jack you for your f*cking Lex” that would make Mike Tyson snarl. Within 3:15, Big Pun gave all sucker emcees fair warning that he was coming for the title of best lyricist in rap, and this cut served as convincing evidence.
4. “You Ain’t A Killer”
“You Ain’t A Killer,” produced by Young Lord, is nothing short of masterful. Containing samples of Michael Jackson’s “With A Child’s Heart” and Kool And The Gang’s “Summer Madness,” the beat was destined to be lyrically castrated by a rhymer the caliber of Pun. Witty yet gruesome one liners like “Your brains will make their debut on the table when I raise the stakes” and hearing him threaten to “John Madden tackle your corpse, then hoist it on the cross at the tabernacle” made it clear that Pun is not one to fuck with in any shape or form.
P.S. The beat for this song is f***ing banoodles and can only be done justice by the most elite of wordsmiths. Tread lightly, rooks.
5. “Twinz (Deep Cover ’98)”
It’s extremely rare for any sequel/remake to stack up well against the original, but Big Pun and Fat Joe beat those odds when they hijacked the beat for Dre and Snoop’s “Deep Cover” for their Capital Punishment collab, “Twinz (Deep Cover ’98).” After receiving intel that there’s a rat in their organization, Pun plans a meeting with Joe at Vito’s in the Bronx, with pasta (and murder) on the menu. From then, chaos ensues, with the pair left in the middle of Little Italy, but little did they know that they riddled some middle men who didn’t do diddly. The pair go out in a blaze of glory, all the while professing their loyalty to each other, resulting in one of the more lauded remakes in Hip-Hop history.
6. “You Came Up”
Pun hooked up with fellow Boriqua Noreaga for the Capital Punishment single “You Came Up.” Produced by Rockwilder and containing a sample of “Don’t Ask Me” by Ramon Morris, the song sees the newly christened star celebrating his come up and reminiscing on his humble beginnings and dues paid. Lines like “When I was young, I wasn’t always Big Pun, it wasn’t always this fun, ayo, I rose from the slums/I had to pay my dues, laid a few, but I ain’t saying who/Staying true to the game, no names, playing it cool” and Nore on the hook proclaiming “Pun, you came up/what what, making it happen/From rapping on the corner to possibly going platinum,” the rotund spitter continued his streak of non-compromising hits, and some of the most hilarious music video plots of the ’90s.
7. “Dream Shatterer” (Original)
While the version featured on Capital Punishment was dope in it’s own right, the original version of “Dream Shatterer” featured on the posthumous Endangered Species was truly on a whole other zenith. With producer Buckwild providing a high-octane banger, Big Punisher displayed one of the most complete lyrical performances from start to finish that we’ve been witness to in ages.
With rewind button breaking bars like “I shatter dreams like Jordan, assault and batter your team, your squadron will be barred from rap like Adam and Eve from the garden/I’m carving my initials on your forehead, so every night before bed, you see the BP shine off the boardhead/Reverse that, I curse at the first wack n**** with the worst rap/Cause he ain’t worth jack, hit em with a thousand pounds of pressure per slap,” and claiming to be “the first Latin rapper to baffle your skull, master the flow, n****s be swearin’ I’m blacker than coal/Like Nat King…,” all the while going for a career high of quotables.
8. “Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)”
Remember Pun, the one you bit ya whole sh*t from/Remember Pun, who snatched away the moon and blew away the sun…”
As one of the premier posse cut kings during his tenure, it was only right that Pun sharpen his sword against some of the game’s most feared rhyme animals at the time in Prodigy and Inspectah Deck. The result was “Tres Leches,” a lyrical cage-match in which the three went all out for the glory of being deemed the guy that ‘killed that sh*t.’ While it’s a toss-up as to who actually walked away with that honor, what isn’t up for debate is that the Punisher made his case in grand fashion. Wreaking havoc on one of the hardest beats RZA produced this side of Wu-Tang, Pun left no feelings unhurt with scathing lines like “Foil ya plans, spoil ya man’s, make em mine/Take all you made, call you gay on Hot 97,” making for one hell of a closeout performance on one of the more underrated collabo cuts of the ’90s.
9. “It’s So Hard”
Big Pun passed away on February 7th, 1999 from a heart attack while staying at a Crowne Plaza Hotel in White Plains, New York. The Hip-Hop community was left shocked and devastated. Two months after his death, Loud released his second studio album, Yeeeah Baby, which peaked at number three on the Billboard charts and would go on to be certified gold.
The album’s lead single, the Donell Jones assisted “It’s So Hard” was almost prophetic, as the track was a reminder of how hard it was being cheated of the chance of seeing a talent the caliber of Pun grow and evolve. With his usual humor (“I paid for them titties, getcha own, own, ya heard!!”) and an accompanying video filled with his musical family and friends, “It’s So Hard” stands as a testament to everything we loved about Pun and how much Hip-Hop loved him.
With the Hip-Hop community still reeling from Pun’s sudden death and and in a somber mood, the spirit of the BX’s favorite son enticed us to get out of that funk and enjoy life with his barrio ready banger, “100%.” Produced by Sean Cane, the track also served as a prideful anthem for Puerto Ricans worldwide, with it’s accompanying video shot in Puerto Rico and its prominent display of the Puerto Rican flag and Latin culture a big hit with the public. Even though he was no longer with us in the flesh, it was only right that his last shining moment was a celebratory one, as we’re sure with his good nature and sense of humor, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
Rest In Peace Christopher Rios.