Originally published in the March 2003 issue of XXL

Ten years ago hip-hop lost a legend when Christopher “Big Pun” Rios died from a heart attack and respiratory failure in a White Plains, New York hotel room on February 7, 2000. When DITC member Fat Joe began working on his own collective, the Terror Squad, the centerpiece of the crew was Pun, whose 500-pound physique never obscured his lyrical dexterity. The first solo Latino MC to go platinum, Pun put a stop to all that Rico Suave talk with dizzying tongue-twisters like the classic from “Twinz”: “Dead in the middle of Little Italy little did we know/That we riddled some middleman who didn’t do diddly.”

Since his death, the contributions Pun made to the art of MCing have begun to be fully recognized. On the anniversary of his respective passing, XXL asked some of the people he made music with to choose a favorite verse and analyze, line for line, the skills of a lyricist who looms even larger now than he did when he were alive. —Adam Matthews

Wu-Tang Clan’s Inspectah Deck chose this verse from a Pun song he guested on, “Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)

“Yo, Big Punisher’s ready/Prodigy, Deck and me, QB, Shaolin and Bronx trilogy/Lyrically hazardous for your wealth, swing on your world’s piece/Foil your plans, boil your grams, take a shine/Fold all your hands, spoil your mans, make him mine/Take all you made, call you gay on Hot 97/Drop by your dwelling got the nueve right behind your melon/Ain’t no tellin’ when the bullet’s behind the trigger/I do it to live niggas and Pulitzer Prize winners/You wouldn’t survive nigga, if I chose you/Froze you from ear to ear, showin’ your whole vocal/Who told you, you could roll through, my lyrics practically rose you/From the grave, like The Crow’s do/I told you a long time ago, don’t ever fuck me/’Cause if I leave you half dead/Consider yourself very lucky/Very ugly from the face up/Leave you laced up, Joey Crillz, Pros, Cuban Link, Triple Seis, what?”

XXLMag.com: You appeared on this song with Pun [along with Mobb Deep’s Prodigy]. Did you feel any pressure?

Inspectah Deck: I ain’t going to front. You got Big Pun in there rhyming. He’s a force. And P already had his name solidified in the game. Just being in that room, they brought the best out of me. You can’t say anything wild on a track with Pun.

XXLMag.com: “Prodigy, Deck and me, QB, Shaolin and Bronx trilogy...”

Inspectah Deck: I got family all up and down Queens, I was born in the Bronx and I be in and out of Brooklyn. It’s the five boroughs that make New York whole.

XXLMag.com: “I do it to live niggas and Pulitzer Prize winners...”

Inspectah Deck: I feel the same way he feel. I don’t care if you’re Langston Hughes or Maya Angelou, if you step in my realm, then we going to face off. It’s like, Maya Angelou could even get hit like Langston for even approaching me like that.