If you consider yourself a true hip-hop head, then you know the name Big Pun. The late, great Puerto Rican MC hailing from the Bronx made history when he became the first Latino solo rapper to go platinum with his debut album, Capital Punishment.
Born Christopher Lee Rios, he emerged from the underground hip hop scene in the Bronx in the early 1990s, honing his craft and perfecting his flow. It wasn’t long before he caught the attention of fellow Puerto Rican rapper Fat Joe, who signed him to his label, Terror Squad Productions, in conjunction with RCA and Loud Records. From there, the Bronx MC would go on to cement his legacy as one of the illest lyricists hip hop has ever seen.
After making a series of scene-stealing feature performances, Pun unleashed his debut album on April 28, 1998. Preceded by the hit single “Still Not a Player,” the album was an instant fan-favourite, peaking at number 5 on the Billboard 200 and topping the Top R&B Albums chart. The project went on to sell over a million copies, making Pun the first Latino solo rapper to reach platinum status (Cypress Hill were the first Latino rap act to do this).
The album also snagged a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album alongside Jay-Z’s Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, Jermaine Dupri’s Life In 1472, Mase’s Harlem World and A Tribe Called Quest’s The Love Movement. Hov would go on to win the category.
Fat Joe: I put him on the second album, and then we just focused on Pun, just making him a rap superstar. And Pun became the first Latino solo artist to sell 2 million records. Frenzy. Latinos never saw nothing like that. One of the greatest lyricists that ever lived in life. We dropped “Still Not a Playa” and played it on the radio in the morning show on Hot 97. By the time I made it to the lobby, Lyor Cohen, Craig Kallman, Steve Rifkind, every executive you name in the world was waiting for me at the lobby like, “Yo, you got any other Spanish cousins? I wanna sign them now.” That was my moment of becoming rich at that point, you know? Big Pun was nominated for two Grammys. He went and got the finger waves like Dru Down. It’s that iconic picture where we look like the kingpin. The big-ass suits. I remember when we went to the Grammys, they had told us that they do the hip-hop awards before, and we lost.Fat Joe Interview – Legendary Stories With Jay-Z, Big Pun, More | XXL