Big Punisher: 1971-2000: Rapper Biography
Discovered By Fat Joe, Weight Gain Lead To Early Death, Fame Continued After Death
Puerto Rican rapper Big Punisher, also known as Big Pun, was the first Latin-American hip-hop star. He brought Latino rap—popular before only in his South Bronx neigh-borhood—into the hip-hop mainstream, which has typically been dominated by African-American artists. His first hit single, "I'm Not a Player," set the stage for the release of his immensely successful 1998 full-length debut, Capital Punishment. The album was the first by a Latin rapper to earn double-platinum status for record sales. Big Pun sealed his place in history by becoming the first Latin rapper to be nominated for a Grammy award. The rapper's name referred to his great size; many MCs rapped about "living large," but Big Pun was medically obese—he weighed in at nearly 700 pounds at the time of his death from heart failure, in 2000.
Big Pun was born Christopher Rios on November 10, 1971, in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City. He was raised in a strict household by his mother and militaristic stepfather, and was in good shape as a teen. He enjoyed boxing and basketball. Conflicts with his parents caused him to leave home at age 15. He dropped out of high school after just one year, but Big Pun read encyclopedias on his own to expand his knowledge and vocabulary. Within a few years, he was an expectant father with bills to pay, and worked odd jobs until collecting on a long-standing legal claim. He received an estimated half-million dollars from an accident that took place in a public park when he was a child. He began overeating to cope with stress and, with his slow metabolism, began to pack on the pounds. In 1990 he married his junior high school sweetheart, Liza. The two had three children together: Christopher, Vanessa, and Amanda.
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