It’s awfully morbid business remembering the exact date when someone died. What do you even call such a thing? Death day? Death date? Death anniversary? Whatever the proper term, it’s something that music fans commemorate. (The tradition isn’t confined to hip-hop: Remember the hullabaloo last December “celebrating” the 30th anniversary of John Lennon’s murder?) And because of that, you will probably hear a Big Pun record sometime today. It shouldn’t be this way.
This is probably the first and last time I will ever write the following words but maybe Republicans have the right idea. Yesterday was the 100-year anniversary of Ronald Reagan’s birthday. Coverage of the event saturated the morning and cable news shows as Conservatives raced to hyperbolically praise the late 40th President. Doesn’t that make more sense? Sure, Canibus’ tribute to Biggie on “2nd Round KO” was clever—“The greatest rapper of all time died on March 9th”—but I don’t like remembering March 9, 1997. I don’t like remembering September 13, 1996. I especially don’t like remembering February 7, 2000.
Big Pun’s death impacted me more than the murders of Christopher Wallace and Tupac Shakur. And it wasn’t just because I preferred his music (which I still do). It occurred during that tumultuous, enlightening and awesome moment between adolescence and adulthood called college. On February 7, 2000, I was a junior at New York University. I had just quit my boring gig at a retail clothing store to work as a page at a big time TV show. It was also around the time that I switched majors from education to print journalism. That day, I went home after class and turned on BET Rap City. Some music video was playing but I immediately noticed writing at the bottom of the screen. Now this was before every network installed a crawl; something important must have happened. I read the news. Pun was gone. Damnit.
Tony Soprano once said that “Remember when” is the lowest form of conversation. In a way, he’s right. That said, here goes:
I remember when I first heard “Off the Books.” I remember when I first heard “Firewater.” I remember when I huddled around a stereo in a smoky and crowded dorm room to hear Capital Punishment. I remember when I changed shifts with a friend from work so he could see Pun at the 1998 Puerto Rican Day Parade. I remember when I rode a train to Montreal in December 1999 and repeatedly listened to “What’cha Gonna Do” throughout the nine hour trip. I remember when I found out Pun had passed. And I remember when I learned about Pun’s dark side from the documentary Still Not a Player. (It’s unfortunate but it’s a part of his narrative.)
What do you all think? Should we celebrate the date someone died? Why not their birthday? And regardless, what do you remember when you think of Big Pun? Please share in the comments. Please hit me up on Twitter @golianopoulos