When going through the history of hip-hop, you'd be remiss not to mention Big Pun. Coming out of the Bronx, N.Y. in the late '90s, the MC was one of the most promising artists in the game during one of the most fruitful eras for the genre.
Pun quickly became a star with his debut album, Capital Punishment, in 1998, which earned him a platinum plaque -- making him the first Latin rapper to achieve that feat. Known for his lyrical wizardry, superb breath control and his sense of humor, the massive MC lived up to his name by punishing foes whenever placed behind a mic. By the end of 1998, the man born Christopher Rios was a certified star and had managed to put his name in the conversation of being the best in the game.
But Big Pun would never be able to reach his full potential. He died in early 2000 due to complications that stemmed from his excessive weight, which the rapper had been working towards cutting down before his untimely death. While the rap community mourned, Loud Records decided to salvage his last recordings for Endangered Species, an album he had been in the process of recording.
His second LP was ultimately titled Yeeeah Baby and was released on April 4, 2000, just months after Pun's death. Executive produced by Fat Joe, the project includes features from Pun's Terror Squad brethren, as well as Donell Jones, M.O.P., Drag-On and Remy Martin, now known as Remy Ma.
While far from the masterpiece that was Capital Punishment, Yeeeah Baby was welcomed by fans and features classic singles, as well as a few noteworthy album cuts that still receive burn until this day. Being that today is the 15th anniversary since its release, we share some highlights from the record. Check out Five Best Songs From Big Pun's Yeeeah Baby Album below.
Big Pun gets lyrically grisly on "Leatherface." Produced by the Infinite Arkatechz, the record contains elements of the Rocky II theme, as well as sound bites from the infamous chainsaw scene in Scarface and is a perfect soundbed for Pun to get busy on. "It's not a game, it's war, plain and raw / Blood stain the wall when I bring the chain with the saw / Bring the pain to ya door like death was knocking / Unless you got my ends, I'ma make you twins with the headless horseman," he rhymes. The Bronx bomber comes out of the gate swinging on this revved-up cut.
"Ms. Martin"Feat. Remy Martin
The '90s were the golden era of the female rapper. You weren't truly doing it big as an MC until you had a femme fatale on your team and Big Pun found his in fellow Bronx native, Remy Ma, previously known as Remy Martin. Far from your manufactured rap chick, Remy was as deadly as most men behind the mic and proved it on this standout selection. "I inhale the deepest, cock back, and bust rhymes at ya speakers / I'm trouble, I shoot the air bubble in ya sneakers / The type to cop a Range along wit all the features / And take the back streets to avoid the leeches," she spits. Remy attacks the beat like a pitbull let off the chain in the presence of a steak. Stacking up quotables with ease and dropping some of the most scathing bars you've ever heard a female spit, she goes bonkers on "Ms. Martin" and provides a solid example as to why Pun took her under his wing.
"Laughing at You"Feat. Tony Sunshine
One of the best aspects of Big Pun's artistry was his underrated sense of humor, which he displays on the triumphant "Laughing at You." Produced by O.Gee, the track is powered by ample amounts of bass and thumping drum kicks and serves as one of the more refined beats on the album. Reminiscing on his days as the underdog and celebrating his rise to prominence on the hook, he taunts his enemies. "I'm laughing at you, I'm laughing at you now / You told me I was ugly, I was scared to crack a smile," he rhymes. Pun one-ups his naysayers and detractors in humorous fashion and creates one of the more underrated cuts in his catalog.
"It's So Hard"Feat. Donell Jones
The Young Lord-produced "It's So Hard" is an example of a great song being bittersweet, considering that it's nearly a de facto memorial song in the late rapper's memory. Featuring R&B singer Donell Jones, the track is as lighthearted an offering as you'll ever hear from Big Pun and stands as a testament of everything that the public loved about him and his personality. From the catchy lyrics to his timeless adlibs, "It's So Hard" is a sure shot classic and one of the more memorable selections from that era of hip-hop.
"100%"Feat. Tony Sunshine
Aside from being one of the greatest lyricists in the history of rap, Big Pun was also a hero to the Latin community and the first rapper of Hispanic descent to go platinum. So it was only right that Pun showed some love to his roots with the Yeeeah Baby track, "100%." Produced by Sean C, the beat incorporates many of the sounds that are prevalent in merengue, while the thumping drums give it a boom-bap feel without sacrificing authenticity. Featuring Tony Sunshine, who gives an enthralling performance on the hook and bridge, "100%" captures Pun as prideful as ever in his heritage and kicking his flows in Spanglish while keeping it palatable enough for anybody to enjoy. A mainstay on playlists in various barrios, this track is nothing short of a classic and is sure to get ladies' hips moving and fellas' feet shuffling.