Recently, Chris Rivers, the son of Big Pun put out a song that detailed the physical abuse that both he and his mother suffered at the hands of Pun. So while Big Pun may be known as the first Latino rapper to ever go platinum solo1, he demonstrated some monstrous behavior.
What does that mean for his legacy? It is undeniable that Big Pun influenced the sound of hiphop. Some notable influences include Jedi Mind Tricks and the Army of the Pharaohs crew. Among G Rap and Big Daddy Kane, Pun was partially responsible for the multisyllabic rhymes that so many of us hiphop nerds geek out too.
But given the evidence presented, he was not a good person. His history of violence has been documented as shown in the documentary clip below.
Big Pun’s Abuse Caught On Tape
And this is why Fear of my Crown is so important. The song is pivotal to Chris Rivers’ career. He’s casting away the shadow of Big Pun, after getting rid of his former Baby Pun moniker. Rivers speaks on something that anyone who grew up in an abusive home thinks about – the day when you’re ready to square off with your pops. It’s a frightening prospect. But the reality for a whole lot of people.
Music as Therapy
Music has the power to heal. And it definitely makes sense for Rivers to deal with trauma through music as therapy. Rivers is a lyricist. Having storytelling ability is part of a lyricist’s repertoire. And it’s most effective when it’s personal. Instead of internalizing his victimization, he’s chosen to bravely speak out on it. This may help a whole generation of kids going through some tough situations. So while, many may see this as Rivers maligning his lineage, we need to think of the bigger picture.
For a lot of kids, abuse is an everyday occurrence. All types of abuse. Physical, emotional, and verbal abuse.
In truth, Big Pun had alluded to much violence in his raps. Pun had been quite paranoid and combing through his lyrics you can sense quite a bit of that paranoia. He was really about that life. This is not something to glorify. Suffering from trauma himself, he perpetuated a cycle of violence. However, that does not excuse his behavior. It also does not cancel out his talent.
Pun was a top-tier lyricist. One can appreciate his craft and still think he was a terrible person. No one’s saying to throw out your copy of Capital Punishment, but we need to accept the fact that he did not treat his family right.
Lisa Rios (Pun’s Wife and Rivers’ mom) has been vocal over the years. There have been periods where both she and her son were homeless. While that may not have been Pun’s fault directly, there may have been certain factors that contributed to that unfortunate circumstance.
In an era where our idols are torn down in the wake of scandals, we must accept that there may have been significant posturing on their end. The public image may not reflect personal life. We would do well to remember that many careers have been built on carefully crafting a persona. 90s hiphop is not excluded from this trope.
Although we cannot apply the morality of 2017, to say the 18th century, we can call out 1950s behavior in the modern era. No one should have to live under the threat of physical abuse. Ever.
We often romanticize the tortured artist with demons. But then are we complicit when their demons take over? I’d wager no. An artist’s internal struggle is often kept in the dark. While some do mention their personal struggles – music is a product bought, sold, and paid for.
This I would say is the difference between an artist like Eminem and Big Pun. Eminem frequently mentions violence towards women, but the intended audience explicitly knows this to be his dark fantasy and not reality. The audience buys Eminem’s music to hear his fantasy. Big Pun, on the other hand, mentions intense paranoia in his music that may been very real but his music is still being sold as fantasy.
This becomes more nuanced now with Chris Rivers being an artist like his father. Rivers explicitly mentions the violence his family faced at the hands of his father. We now know the facts. We don’t know what remains fiction.
This complicates Big Pun’s legacy enormously. Big Pun, proved that latin rappers could be taken seriously in the cannon of hiphop. What remains unclear is whether or not this will change people’s perception of Pun in the long term.
Chris Rivers as the Future for Latino Rappers
While Rivers is certainly talented and gets his props as a skilled emcee, he does not have the same foothold in the culture as his dad did. His cadence and delivery often sound like Big Pun himself. That’s a catch-22.
Rivers’ sound doesn’t feel like it belongs to the modern era of hiphop but rather the late 90s. And, while it may take enormous talent to pull that flow off, it also makes Rivers sound stuck in the late 90s appealing to the older hiphop heads.
Another rapper influenced by Big Pun is Termanology who has called himself the resurrection of Pun in the verse where he came up rhyming to a Dj Premiere beat. Since then, Termanology has put in 10+ years grinding and making music with everyone from Lil Fame of M.O.P. to Q-Tip, to Slaine of La Coka Nostra.
Big Pun’s influence can still be heard in music today. As we learn more about the home life of Big Pun, we see that maybe he should not be placed on a pedestal and rather looked at as a flawed human being.
The hiphop community should applaud Rivers for trying to break free from his father’s shadow. Big Pun was a volatile man. And the fact that his son has had success with his own musical career means that there is an opportunity for a larger dialogue to open up. Does glorifying gangster music may have long-term effects on people’s mental health? What should latino rappers sound like? And if rappers borrow from Pun – should they also be made to speak about his violent past as well?
1source: MTV News.
If you or anyone you know is experiencing Domestic Abuse please contact:
1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or visit http://www.thehotline.org/.