No tears today. We rejoice. We celebrate one of hip-hop's most important albums from one of the genre's truest gems of an MC.
Big Pun's Capital Punishment dropped exactly 20 years ago (April 28, 1998). The LP was the first by a Latino MC to go platinum and, later, multi-platinum. Aside from the historic ramifications of the project, we celebrate the late, great Pun and his magnum opus for its overall excellence, as further exemplified by the Bronx rapper's superior lyricism.
Capital Punishment is an upper echelon musical milestone, one that certainly can be spoken about in the same breath of premier LPs from Pun's era, including JAY-Z's Vol. 2 The Hard Knock Life, DMX's _It's Dark and Hell is Hot; Flesh of Flesh, Blood of My Blood, and Eminem's The Slim Shady LP.
Obviously, "Still Not A Player" is the album's most known record. The blockbuster multi-platinum single, featuring R&B legend Joe, was the perfect storm of dexterous wordplay, a Frosted Flakes sweet hook, chick magnetism/sex appeal and a dancefloor-galvanizing beat that made it the perfect anthem to bring black and brown people together first and foremost, all while attracting everyone else.
But elsewhere in Pun's masterpiece, we got to know the charismatic MC with the signature voice, endless flows, lovable presence and, of course, lyrics that cut through tracks with ease as his bars were sharper than Thor's stormbreaker axe.
"Flawless victory, you niggas can't do shit to me / Physically, lyrically, hypothetically, realistically" he raps on "Beware."
Immediately after, he and Blackthought bully, batter and brutalize the beat on "Super Lyrical." Google "The Road Warriors putting a spike in Dusty Rhodes' eye," and that's exactly what they did to the track.
Pun is surely missed; he's a one of one irreplaceable talent. However, today isn't about mourning, it's about applauding his greatness.
Steve Rifkind, who was the first to sign Pun and so many other generational artists (such as the Wu-Tang Clan, Three 6 Mafia and Mobb Deep) to his Loud Record's label, recently reflected on Capital Punishment and its author recently during a visit to REVOLT TV's New York studio.
"For Loud, it was exciting because we never had a radio record," Rifkind explained about the significance of "Still Not a Player." "'Shook Ones' by Mobb Deep got played in New York, might've got played in Philly. We weren't making radio records. We weren't making the records Puff was making. We weren't making the records Def Jam was making. We weren't making the records Death Row was making. We were making records for the street and if radio wanted to come play with us, cool. We never chased radio. This was our first record. I always considered myself a promoting guy, so I said I'm going to bring this record home. We had a chick record."
Rifkind says he wasn't in the studio with Pun much while the Bronx MC and his fellow BX Bomber Fat Joe, who was the album's executive producer, came up with the rest of the classic project.
"I was just so focused on shipping and making sure we were getting a certain amount. I let the creators do what they had to do to be creative and make the best record possible," Steve said, breaking it down. "Joe came up to office with Pun. I locked my door. And they played the [album]. We started smoking cigars, celebrated a little and I became a whole different animal the next day."
Rifkind's decision to keep a close eye on the stores buying advanced copies of Capital Punishment paid off: an excess of a million copies was sent to stores for the album's first week of release.
"The single ["Still Not a Player"] was blowing up," Rifkind said, thinking back. "He had just come back from doing a show and he came back with a beautiful Cuban Link bracelet that said 'Big Pun.' All iced out. I said, 'That's nice. Show money is good.' He said, 'Man, I just want to go platinum.' I said, 'We're shipping platinum. We're going to do three to four million units.' He said, 'If we do that, I'm gonna buy you one of these' and points to his bracelet."
In little over a half year later, Rifkind predictions held true and Pun not only had one of the hottest albums in the streets, it excelled on the Billboard and SoundScan charts.
"We're at four million, six, seven months down [down the line]," Rifkind continued. "[Pun] calls me for a meeting, and says 'I want to talk about the new album.' He comes in. He really loves to laugh. He loved pulling pranks and jokes . His heart was as big as he was. He loved people and he loved to laugh. I said, 'You're full of shit.' He's looking at me like 'Why?' I said 'I told you we were gonna do four million, you said you said you were going to get me a bracelet once we did two million.' He goes in his pocket, takes something out of his pocket and throws it at me. It's a diamond bracelet with my name on it."
This week, Rifkind's timing was apropos as he announced a partnership with Sony Red to relaunch Loud Records. Rap spitter Axel Leon is the leadoff artist on Loud's new wave, with more to come. Rifkind also says there will be heavy emphasis on Loud's rich catalog such as Capital Punishment and Wu-Tang Clan's Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) debut. For Wu's project, he's going to rerecord the album with a gaggle of superstar MCs going in and rapping all of the Clan member's parts as a way of paying homage. The contributions from Ol' Dirty Bastard, however, will not have any of his parts touched and his original verses will remain on the new reimagined album.
"I tried going into the digital world in like 2013, up until recently," Rifkind said. "I learned what I learned. Now it's time to use what I've learned in the last four years, what I've learned just being a record guy. And put it altogether."