In the story of Big Punisher, there has never been anything false about his lyrical genius.
Born Christopher Lee Rios, Pun’s rhymes — traditionally laden with alliteration and multi-syllabic schemes — swaggered on rhythm steeped in boom bap and Latin funk, carving space for future bicultural and bilingual MCs like him. Regarded as one of the greatest lyricists of all time, Pun’s larger-than-life legacy leaves behind a catalog of music that seamlessly blends signature grit, humor and braggadocio, making it obligatory to scream “Big Pun” forever, even 17 years after his untimely death.
Run through 13 of the Bronx native’s most excellent cuts below.
“100%” Ft. Tony Sunshine
Produced by Sean Cane, “100%” serves as a proud anthem for Boricuas worldwide, with its accompanying video shot on the island.
“It’s So Hard” ft. Donell Jones
The lead single off Pun’s 2000 sophomore studio effort Yeeeah Baby, the Donell Jones-assisted “It’s So Hard” was poignantly prophetic as the track served as a reminder of being robbed of the chance of witnessing a talent of the caliber of Pun grow and fully evolve.
“You Ain’t A Killer”
Produced by Young Lord, “You Ain’t A Killer” is nothing short of authoritative, also sampling Michael Jackson and Kool and the Gang.
“Still Not A Player” ft. Joe
This song single-handedly turned Pun into a household name and played a major role in him becoming the first Latino MC to be certified platinum.
“Dream Shatterer” featured on Capital Punishment is really just on a whole ‘nother level, with production wizardry by Domingo.
“Super Lyrical” ft. Black Thought
Punisher rose to the occasion when visibly challenged by The Roots’ own Black Thought.
“Punish Me” with Miss Jones
In short: Miss Jones and Pun bodied this beat.
“You Came Up” ft. Noreaga
The fellow Borinqueños linked up and delivered in “You Came Up,” produced by Rockwilder.
“Tres Leches” ft. Inspectah Deck & Prodigy
“Remember Pun, the one you bit ya whole sh*t from/Remember Pun, who snatched away the moon and blew away the sun…”
Alongside Deck and Prodigy, it’s clear that iron sharpens iron.
“Whatcha Gonna Do” ft. Terror Squad
The track’s chorus is slick and boasts optimum levels of Pun’s flow. The Squad’s efforts further bolsters the energy.
“Off Wit His Head” ft. Terror Squad
17 years later and the Just Blaze-produced cut (how sick is this instrumental?!) still bangs in barrios all over.
“Off The Books” – The Beatnuts ft. Big Pun & Cuban Link
Sure this is a Beatnut classic but Pun’s contribution couldn’t be ignored anymore than the underground pioneers could resist featuring him.
This article was originally published on Billboard.com’s sister site VIBE.com.