On this day, April 4th, in hip-hop history…
2000: It’s safe to say that the Big Punisher had the weight of the world on his shoulders as hip-hop awaited his sophomore album. Releasing his chart-topping debut album, Capital Punishment, just two years earlier, the Bronx MC proved that he was a force to be reckoned with. He earned a Grammy nod, and with it flying off the shelves, Pun became the first solo Latino hip-hop artist to receive a platinum plaque. At this point, all eyes were on Big Pun, anxiously awaiting his next move. He stepped up to the plate with Yeeeah Baby. Sadly, Pun didn’t live to see the release.
Yeeeah Baby showcased Big Pun as an evolving and versatile MC. “Watch Those” saw Pun spitting mouthfuls over guitar riffs mixed with a sample from “Starsky & Hutch” without missing a beat. Pun exercised his relentless flow alongside M.O.P. on “New York Giants”. His comical and playful side shined through on tracks like “Nigga Shit” and “Laughing at You”, which even sampled Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. The MC made bold claims on the salsa-tinged Puerto Rican anthem “100%” where he spits “I’m like G. Rap, ‘Pac, Master P/ All balled up with a twist of Marc Anthony”. Pun also proved his commercial appeal on the R&B-influenced “It’s So Hard” featuring Donell Jones.
Around this time, Big Pun had also made a cameo appearance on Jennifer Lopez’ “Feelin’ So Good” alongside his Terror Squad brethren, Fat Joe. Pun was scheduled to perform with them on “Saturday Night Live”, but he bailed out because he wasn’t feeling well. On February 7, just two days later, Big Pun died of a heart attack at 28 years old. Yeeeah Baby would drop two months later, earn a platinum certification, and further catapult him into legendary status.—Jamal Bell