As news of the passing of Big Pun trickled through the hip-hop community on Tuesday, friends and colleagues recalled a man whose impact on both rap and the Latino community will linger long after his untimely death.
As we first reported on Monday, Pun (real name Christopher Rios) suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead on Monday afternoon (see "Big Punisher Suffers Fatal Heart Attack").
"He was a legend, not only to Latinos but hip-hop in general," Big Pun's closest colleague, Fat Joe, recalled to MTV News on Tuesday. "He broke many barriers. I think he was the birth of that quote-unquote Latino explosion. Pun is gonna be missed. He loved his fans, and I want his fans to show a lot of support for him, give him the respect he deserves, because he definitely worked very hard to please his fans and just to make
the best music possible." [RealVideo]
Actress/singer Jennifer Lopez, who worked with Big Pun on her current hit "Feelin' So Good," said of the late rapper, "He was a source of pride for the Latin community, a great artist and a great person. We will miss him terribly."
"It's the catch-22," Fat Joe said of Pun's weight and the notoriety that came with it. "He made a lot of people feel proud of themselves, feel handsome, you know. I see a lot of fat guys out there maybe trying to look like Pun, trying to look like me. They look up to us. On the other hand, we've got to raise consciousness. We've got to take care of our health, because Pun was too young to go like that. It's the same thing with me, same thing with everybody. We need to take care of our health. It's very important. You ain't got
your health, you ain't
got nothing, for real." [RealVideo]
In addition to his musical legacy (including an unreleased sophomore album, "Yeehah Baby," that was due in April, but will likely be delayed at least two weeks), the rapper left behind a wife and three children. "We're starting a foundation for his kids to make sure they are well taken care of as they get older," Rifkind told MTV News.
As friends recalled Pun the family man and Pun the rapper, they painted a picture of the man as a trailblazer whose path and example will be followed for years to come.
"Most definitely, guys can show that they can come from out of nowhere and just break on the scene no matter what nationality they are and just represent, and that's inspiration to all kids who want to be doing the same thing," B-Real said. "Hip-hop has always been dominated by brothers and stuff like that, even though Latins helped create hip-hop, we were there on the first day. So we got forgotten about, and you know, a handful of
groups like Pun, ourselves, The Beatnuts, and guys like Kid Frost and Mellow Man Ace reminded people that Latins were here since day one and this music is for everybody."
"Pun stayed true to himself," Rifkind summarized. "There were things he wanted to do, and there was a big picture that he saw, and he stayed true and he fought us tooth and nail on a lot of different things that we wanted him to do. He stayed true to himself, and that might have backfired in his face, in all our faces. The one thing that I've got to respect is that he did stay true to himself." [RealVideo]