I chose to write about Big Pun because I think I’ve been straying away from this blog’s objective — to draw attention to the lyrical pedigree of my favorite artists. Big Pun is a lyrical heavyweight, in both senses of the term (he was ~700lbs). His characteristic rhyme style is to mix-and-match alliteration, multi-syllabic rhymes, and squeezing as many words into a couplet before taking a breath. This talent is probably the reason Fat Joe linked up with him and the reason he became the first Latino rapper to go platinum. He dies in 2000 from weight issues and only put out one album.
Because of his unique style and inclusion in the “best rappers of all time” arguments, I am choosing three songs to analyze.
This track is genius. It samples a Dr. Dre beat (to strategically get listeners on the west coast) and features a hardcore back-and-forth between Pun and Fat Joe, with Pun spitting possibly one of the most memorable verses in hip-hop:
Dead in the middle of little Italy, little did we know that we riddled some middlemen who didn’t do diddly
Not only is it the most intricately carved alliteration + coupled rhyme masterpiece, but it also makes sense. They’re talking about how their hit went wrong and they shot an innocent bystander.
First time I heard this I was mind-blown to see a collab with Black Thought (The Roots), especially since Pun was somewhat unknown at the time. Pun’s first verse might be one of the most advanced pieces of lyricism (in style and meaning) that might only be rivalled by the likes of Eminem. Get a piece of paper and write the first three words with distinct sounds: “Murderous”, “rap”, “actual”. Treat these as column headers and put each subsequent word under the corresponding sound. You’ll see that all three columns fill up and no word goes unrhymed! Same thing goes for the rest of the verse.
Ay-yo my murderous rap verbal attack is actual fact
Tactical tracks match perfectly with graphical stats
Half a you lack the magical dap of tragical rap
That tackles you back and shackles and laughs at you
When people reference Pun as the King of Flow, I think of this track. The second verse first packs all his talent together. Two things stand out to me: First, he hardly takes any breaths. Second, in his one-liner
Aiyyo the plot thickens I’m pickin the locks in the back entrance
he literally reverses the plot thickens to pickin the locks, and then brings it back to the original compound rhyme. In numbers, this is 12-21-12. I can’t think of any other rapper who does this.