This Big Pun Documentary Explores the Beautiful & Ugly Parts of an Icon’s Life (Video)
Next year marks the 20th anniversary of Christopher “Big Punisher” Rios’s 1998 debut single, “Still Not a Player.” As the first Latin solo Hip-Hop artist to go platinum (thanks to the success of 1998’s Capital Punishment), he made history at just 26-years-old. But just two years later, he passed away.
In 2002, the late MC’s friends and family came together to produce Still Not a Player, the no-holds-barred documentary detailing the Bronx native’s childhood, rise to fame, struggle with demons, his untimely death, and the indelible legacy he left behind when he passed away on February 7, 2000. Big Pun’s wife, sisters, and grandmother are featured in the film, as are Hip-Hop artists including Fat Joe, DJ Premier, Nas (who says of Pun “he’s one of the greatest, I put him with Biggie. I put him with Pac. I put him with Melle Mel and Rakim”), Raekwon, Ice-T, N.O.R.E, Fatman Scoop, and others.
The film begins with a look at Pun’s earliest years and troubled family life, which included a mother who became addicted to heroin, a violently abusive stepfather, and Pun’s time spent selling drugs and living on the streets. His eventual upswing is also explored, as is his marriage to his longtime girlfriend, Liza Rios. However, Rios and other family members disclose in the second half of the documentary, Pun would begin to repeat the cycle of violence he witnessed growing up. Always carrying several guns at a time and showcasing a proclivity for the hardcore, he became an abusive husband himself. Rios says she was a “battered wife for 12 years,” and details one particularly harrowing occurrence. (Heads should be aware that near the 1:01:00 mark, there is footage of a domestic violence incident that could be hard for some to watch).
However, also explored in great detail are the brighter spots in Pun’s unquestionably incredible career. It begins with the formation of his first group, Full-a-Clips, and shortly thereafter, Fat Joe recounts the story of the first day he met his future musical partner. “One day I’m driving by myself and I stop in front of the store, and I see these n****s rhyming and shit. So I go in there and get my little Diet Pepsi and I come outside, and all of a sudden Pun is like ‘yo, yo yo,’ and he started rhyming.” “When I heard him, I was like ‘crazy. Oh my god. This n****’s incredible,'” Joe shares. From there, Hip-Hop history was made, and a host of artists (icons in their own right) share their own awe and admiration of the superstar and his meteoric rise to the top.
Sadly, Pun passed away due to complications stemming from his obesity and unhealthy lifestyle. His family and friends discuss it frankly, and collectively mourn his death for being preventable. But despite his relatively short career, his memory continues to permeate throughout Hip-Hop. Not only does he continue to be mentioned as being one of the greatest MCs of all time, but his son, Chris Rivers, is being celebrated for his own lyrical prowess. And, as the film touches on, Pun’s ability to bring visibility to Latinos in Hip-Hop – as well as his pioneering work implementing Latino flavor in Rap music – remain his most important contributions.