Album Reviews: Big Punisher

Many avid comic readers are familiar with the character known as the Punisher, who is equipped with a weapons arsenal that would dwarf that of many small countries. Fueled by pain and anger, the Punisher takes crime fighting into his own hands by jumping barrel-first into the war against evil.

Now the world of hip-hop has been introduced to a 400-pound incarnation of comparable lyrical fury. In the fall of 1995, the Latino rapper dubbed Big Punisher burst onto the music scene when he made a guest appearance on “Watch Out” from Fat Joe’s heavily slept on Jealous One’s Envy. He also appeared in Fat Joe’s videos from that album and with other artists as well (see: LL Cool J’s “I Shot Ya” video).

Last year sparked a well-deserved buzz for Big Pun. He contributed to the Beatnuts’ “Off the Books,” and “You Ain’t a Killer” on the Soul in the Hole soundtrack, generally blew up on the underground scene and unleashed one of the most recognizable sticker campaigns in New York City in recent years. He then found his way above ground with the wildly successful “I’m Not a Player” and the recent remix entitled “Still Not a Player.”

Having told us what he is not, with Capital Punishment (Loud Records) the big man from the Bronx shows that he can make a complete album with a little something for everybody. The first song opens with a Beatnuts’ track on which Big Pun tells us to “Beware” of his verbal onslaught. He then teams up with Black Thought of the Roots to overtake the competition on a funky Rockwilder (who has produced for Redman) track called “Super Lyrical.”

The smoothest tracks on the album are the aforementioned “Player” series and “Punish Me,” in which Pun gets autobiographical about relationships. Many of the songs exhibit influences from Latin jazz, Caribbean rhythms and old school-styled beats. Appearances from Wyclef (who comes off like yet another Canibus imitator), the Terror Squad (of which Pun is a member) and the crooning of vocalists Joe and Miss Jones hold the seams together well. No matter what the flavor of the track, Big Punisher attacks every song and demands that you acknowledge his presence (which is hard to ignore in any case). Possessing an incredibly swift, agile, yet aggressive flow, his subject matter is witty at times, highly visual and unique. On “Twinz,” Pun teams up with Fat Joe, to remake Dre and Snoop’s “Deep Cover,” boricua style. One of the illest tracks is constructed by the RZA, featuring Prodigy from Mobb Deep and Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck on “Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy).” The only drawbacks are a couple of extraneous skits and that Noreaga and Busta Rhymes merely handle chorus duties on the songs where they appear.

With an album loosely modeled after the Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die, Big Pun has successfully balanced easily accessible material with the joints that the underground heads will feel too. Big Punisher makes you relate to his music on his terms and has made an impressive bid for the premier Latino MC representor. After delivering one of the best and most satisfying releases of 1998, we can expect to hear much more from Big Pun in the future as he continues to hold it down for the boricuas and morenas. Court is adjourned…for now.

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