Words By Patrick M.
Convincing someone of the brilliance of Capital Punishment is easy. You just let Pun’s lines do the work for you.
“Behavin’ like a money hungry hooker/funny how the money took her from an average honey to a stunning looker”
or the ridiculous:
“Dead in the middle of Little Italy little did we know we’d riddled some middlemen who didn’t do diddly.”
But while the written lyrics do amaze, they don’t come close to capturing the display of MCing on this album. Pun was one of Hip-Hop’s great enunciators, always putting the correct stresses on syllables to improve the flow of the lyrics. It’s no coincidence to find this quality in someone from a Spanish-speaking background, as the language’s grammatical structure lends itself to the poetic. Mixing that fluidity with multi-syllabic raps straight out of the Kool G Rap playbook is what made the man so great.
On Capital Punishment, Pun is the undeniable of the show, churning out classic street bangers “Twinz ’98,” and crossover classics “Still Not A Player.” But Capital Punishment also contains a who’s who guest list that reflects the different styles influencing Hip-Hop at the time. Black Thought showcases the intellectual style that was growing at the time on “Super Lyrical”. Wyclef and Pun together bring an international twist on “Carribean Connection,” and Deck, Prodigy, and the RZA bring the classic 90s NYC underground sound on “Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy).” Together these songs represent past and future, as some of the styles would die out or remake themselves in the coming decade. And Pun sounds right at home slanging rhymes with these heavyweights of rap: if anything the scales tip in his favor. (No Pun. Wait…nevermind).
Capital Punishment may not the best album of ’98, but it’s the most reflective of the era. The New York sound still dominated, but the faces of Hip-Hop were changing. This album is straight NYC but, as the first platinum record from a Latino artist, it represents a change. And if the next few years saw Hip-Hop fragment, this album shows the possibilities raised by fusing these styles.
But most of all, the album represents the definitive man one of rap’s supernovas. His work from 1998 still shines brightly ten years later.