Big Punisher, who died on Monday, got "more musical" on the album that he finished just before his death, according to a New York disc jockey and producer who heard some of it a few weeks ago.
"It's hot, definitely," the producer, DJ Clue, said. "He switched up different beats. It's more musical. It's more produced. He's making it happen."
Yeeeah Baby was originally scheduled to hit stores April 4. Loud Records decided on Wednesday night (Feb. 9), after meeting in Los Angeles with officials of Sony Music, the label's distributor, to add more songs to the disc and push back the release until April 11, label publicist Brian Gilmore said.
"We're still going to market Pun," Loud Records Chief Executive Officer Steve Rifkind said. "We're not altering plans. But we don't want to take advantage of a death."
The album, whose first single will be "Leather Face," will follow up Big Pun's platinum solo debut, Capital Punishment (1998), which made him a hip-hop star and a Latino music icon with help from the hit single "Still Not a Player" (RealAudio excerpt). Big Pun (born Christopher Rios) played some of his new music a few weeks ago for DJ Clue, who said he heard an improvement in both lyrics and music from Capital Punishment.
Big Pun, who was 28, recorded Yeeeah Baby in the fall and early this year.
Remembering A Friend
Big Punisher died on Monday in White Plains, N.Y. No official cause of death has been determined, but the rapper weighed 698 pounds, and his heart was three times the size of a healthy one, according to Westchester County Deputy Medical Examiner Louis Roh. Roh said Big Pun showed signs of heart failure.
A public wake is scheduled for Thursday (Feb. 10) and Friday at Ortiz Funeral Home on Westchester Avenue in the Bronx (N.Y.), the rapper's hometown. Calling hours there are between 2 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Pun was remembered by friends and colleagues as a hip-hop standard-bearer and a cordial, grounded person.
Eric B., formerly one half of the seminal hip-hop duo Eric B. and Rakim, called him the Jackie Robinson of Latino rappers, referring to the first black to play Major League Baseball.
But when Big Pun wasn't working on music or promoting an album, he was usually home with his wife, Liza, and three children, Eric B. (born Eric Barrier) said. He said he hopes the family can weather the aftermath of Big Pun's death.
"Talking from afar, I can only wish and hope and pray that this happens," he said. "When something like [Big Pun's death] happens, the vultures come out."
Big Pun co-wrote "From N.Y. to N.O." with rapper Mr. Serv-On and appeared in the video for the song, which appeared on Mr. Serv-On's Da Next Level (1999). He stayed through the video shoot despite a broken foot.
"Most artists would have been crying and canceling out and acting like a prima donna," Mr. Serv-On (born Corey Smith) said on Wednesday. "They wouldn't have even been there. He was actually there on time."
Rifkind, who signed Big Pun to a contract in 1997 without listening to a note of music, said the label plans to establish a charitable foundation to support Rios' children 9-year-old Vanessa, 7-year-old Amanda and 6-year-old Christopher.
The rapper left a weight-loss camp at Duke University last summer, after six weeks, to return home to his children, Rifkind said. He lost between 80 and 100 pounds at the camp but put the weight back on.
"He personally had to take his kids to school each morning," Rifkind said.
The executive, who learned of the rapper's death while on a family vacation, said Big Pun's friend and mentor, rapper Fat Joe, introduced him to Big Pun. He said the vibe he felt from a conversation with the rapper convinced him to offer him a deal within minutes.
Rifkind said Big Pun's appeal transcended race.
"He wasn't a novelty act," Rifkind said. "He touched the underground, he touched urban America, he touched whites, he touched the suburbs. ... There was no difference between him and Eminem. He was accepted by everybody."
Clue said he will dedicate his next underground mix tape to Pun. That tape hits hip-hop record stores around New York on Friday.
(This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. EST Thursday, Feb. 10, with additional reporting.)