Endangered Species, the upcoming final album from Big Pun, will allow the late artist to claim the title of "the best lyricist in rap," while also helping to support his widow and children, according to friend and fellow rapper Fat Joe.
A year ago Wednesday, Big Pun (born Christopher Rios) died of heart failure, losing a struggle with obesity that had left him weighing nearly 700 pounds (see "Big Punisher Suffers Fatal Heart Attack"). Endangered Species, a compilation of greatest hits, collaborations and several unreleased tracks, was originally timed to drop this week to coincide with the anniversary of Pun's death, but has been pushed back to April 3.
"We feel like it's an endangered species, the lyricist and rapper that Pun was," Fat Joe said. "This is the last album being sold in Big Pun's name. ... This is like something you give back to the fans and at the same time take care of his family."
The album's first single, the previously unreleased track "How We Roll," is due in mid-March, according to Loud Records. The song boasts the chorus "There's something I think your crew should know/ Big Pun is the largest/ He's straight off the projects/ That's how we roll" and includes shout-outs to locales in Pun's native Bronx, New York. It dates back to sessions for Big Pun's debut LP, Capital Punishment (1998), which earned him the honor of being the first Latino rapper to go platinum.
"He was hungry it was his first time coming out," said Lisa Rios, Big Pun's widow. "[The song is] just letting people know who he really was, that he wasn't better than nobody. He was straight from the projects he recognized were he was from. He loved it, and he gave his people love."
Big Pun's kids, who perform under the names Baby Pun, Miss Pun and Miss Beauty, help sing the song's chorus on the album version of the song.
Another unexpected guest on Endangered Species is Ricky Martin, whose "Livin' La Vida Loca" appears in a remixed version that includes vocals from Big Pun.
Also on the album is the breakthrough hit "Still Not a Player," as well as unreleased tracks such as "Mama" and "Wishful Thinking," a collaboration with Kool G. Rap and Cypress Hill's B Real.
A year later, the loss of Big Pun who was 28 when he died still feels fresh, his friends and family said.
"My husband passed away just a year ago it's still not enough time," Rios said. "I'm still mourning my kids are still going through it. It's not easy. I still listen to his music all the time because that's how I remember my life."
Fat Joe said that Big Pun, who saw him as the "big brother he never had," tattooed a picture of him on his hand just before he died.
"It was the craziest thing we were only together for five years, but it felt like eternity," Fat Joe said. "My love towards Pun is phenomenal."