To most, today is just a regular day but to hip-hop heads around the world today marks the rising and falling of two of hip-hop’s greatest- Big Punisha’ and J Dilla. Now although these two honourable emcees need no introduction let me break it down for any of our new heads.
Both these artist made major contributions to hip-hop history. Through passionate and rugged rhymes, Grammy nominated artistry, and creative flows and techniques, which sometimes were unsurpassed during their uprising, their mark in hip-hop culture is worth honouring today and any other day of year at that.
(November 10,1971-February 7, 2000)
Christopher Rios, best known as, Big Punisher was the first Latino emcee to go double platinum with his ‘Capital Punishment’ album back in ’98. Born in Bronx, New York Punisher was exposed to struggling circumstances at the early age of 15; with the passing of his father and his mother struggle with drug addiction.
Best known for his intricate rhymes and his flows ability of spitting into the mic without becoming breathless, Pun soon grabbed the attention of rapper, Fat Joe in 1995. His lyrical talent was not to be overlooked which led Pun to his first lyrical debut on Fat Joe’s track, ‘Watch out’. The two formulated a relationship in and outside of the studio booth and quickly took New York by storm as members of the Terror Squad group.
Pun went on to sign a record contract with Loud Records leading to the release of his first debut hit, ‘I’m not a player’ which rose to the top of hip-hop charts, sitting comfortably at No.3. His album ‘Capital Punishment’ slapped hip-hop listeners with a variety of melodies and rhymes and sold more than 2 million copies.
The words and flow Pun gave his listeners were uncensored and authentic in the hip-hop game. He embedded his complex rhymes with unique syllables, tongue-twisting metaphors, and a lyrical structure that was no competition during his uprising and that still, till this day, can go untouched or unrepeated.
What makes Pun even more remarkable was how his flow could last on only one gulp of air; not for anything but keep in mind that we are talking about 400LBS of greatness. I’m 158 LBS and I still need to come up for air in mid conversation, yet Pun would unleash some his dirtiest lines without needing a break; I N S A N E!
He collaborated with some of the hottest names in hip-hop such as The Beatnuts, Heavy D, and many more. His verses offered audiences variety as well; he could illustrate his street mentality, warning you to look both ways before crossing him or he could be that ladies man; smooth, flirtatious and an unapologetic mack daddy.
Pun, unfortunately passed at the young age of 28 of a massive heart attack. His rhymes are remembered today as vicious and venomous and are truly missed in the hip-hop game.
(February 7, 1974- February 10, 2006)
James Yancey, best know as, J Dilla or Jay Dee surfaced from the underground hip-hop scene in his hometown of Detroit, Michigan in the mid 1990’s. Dilla was a record producer and emcee who worked with big names in the industry such as: A Tribe called Quest, Erykah Badu, The Roots, Common, and many more. He began his career as a member in ‘1st down’ alongside emcee, Phat Kat; eventually being signed as one of the first hip-hop groups out of Detroit; however, this was short lived due to the labels downfall.
Dilla moved on to become a member of, Slum Village, which quickly spread amongst hip-hop listeners in Detroit with their debut of, ‘Fan-Tas-Tic Vol.1’. Slum Village’s smooth beats and lyrical deliverance would eventually be introduced to and grab the attention of Q-Tip, which led Dilla to be known as hip-hop’s newest prospect by mid-1990. Dilla soon developed a career in the industry under the direction of Q-Tip leading him to work with artists such as Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, De La Soul, and others. In 2000, he produced 10 songs off of Common’s ‘Like water for chocolate’ album, while contributing to Erykah Badu’s ‘Mama’s gun’ leading to two Grammy nominations.
What made Dilla as legendary as he is today was his deliverance to beat-icians; he dropped some the hottest music productions on songs such as: ‘Drop’ by The Pharcyde, ‘Runnin’ by The Pharcyde, ‘The Light’ by Common, and many, many more. His use of live drums in his productions was something experimental during his time but something that really reshaped beat composition. He would take the time to dissect the instrumentals he heard to truly grasp every sound that composed the sound traveling through our speakers. He would embed bits and pieces of different songs combining it into one instrumental. A keyboard melody from here, a drum rhythm from there, etc. and somehow make a completely different sound, theme and tempo from it all.
To many this may not seem like something extravagant but truth is, Dilla shaped the way a lot of these producers and artists produce their music today. Although, a major of Dillas’ hip-hop contributions were his amazing production skills, believe me when I tell you, when he would drop his rhymes it was not a joke or drill. You can catch his verses in tracks such as, ‘Thelonius’, ‘Reckless driving’, ‘Give it up’, and more.
Their words, rhymes, contributions and memory are carried on through generation after generation as new emcee’s pick up their pens and write, moulding their flows and skills after these fallen hip-hop pioneers. These two are living proof that legends never truly die; they live on through every young emcee spitting on the mic trying to do it how two of the greatest once did.