Retrospective: Big Pun's Capital Punishment Album

By @CherchezLaPorsh

1. Intro
2. Beware 
3. Super Lyrical 
4. Taster's Choice(Skit)
5. Still Not A Player
6. Intermission 
7. The Dream Shatterer 
8. Punish Me
9. Pakinamac Pt. 1 (Skit)
10. You Ain't A Killer
11. Pakinamac Pt. 2 (Skit)
12. Caribbean Connection 
13. Glamour Life
14. Capital Punishment 
15. Uncensored (Skit)
16. I'm Not A Player 
17. Twinz (Deep Cover 98)
18. The Rain and the Sun (Interlude)
19. Boomerang 
20. You Came Up 
21. Tres Leches (Triboro Trilogy)
22. Charlie Rock Shout (Skit)
23. Fast Money 
24. Parental Discretion 

New York. The shopping Mecca, home to the greatest pizza in the world, nightlife capital of North America and the birthplace of Hip hop. NY has truly established itself as always having the best of the best, but let me focus on the hip hop side of things for a minute. I’ve often asked myself where hip hop was "born" and sure enough it’s The Bronx.  Sedgwick Avenue to be exact, so it comes as no surprise that 3 miles southeast of there would be home to one of the greatest lyricists, poets and rhythmic artists hip hop would ever know. For once, I’m not talking about KRS, but rather the person who we all know as Big Punisher. Back in 1998 the hip hop community was blessed with what some would consider the greatest album of the year; “Capital Punishment”. Now to briefly set the stage, Pun had only been in the industry for 8 years, with most of those years spent as an underground rapper, collaborating with others of the same likeness. It wasn’t until ’95 that Pun got his first exposure to the commercial side of the industry by being featured on Fat Joe’s album and then a couple years later on the Beatnuts’ album. I think it’s safe to say those experiences were catalysts in the writing, recording and release of his one and only solo project while living. Pun was an absolute blessing to the industry and although his life ended too suddenly and too soon, he left us with a timeless album filled with his amazing poetic ability, wordplay, lyrics and his incredibly vibrant personality, while adding spice to tracks with his Latino flavor.

Now as much as I love this album, it’s not perfect, in fact the biggest flaw and the ONLY reason it will never be considered a classic or legendary (IMO) is simply because the tracklist is far too long. Does it take away from the quality? A little, BUT if fans knew back then Pun’s life would be lost just two years later, I’m sure we would have wished for another 24 tracks and as much as I love Pun and everything about him, I will admit, it’s exhausting and has a few fillers. I can’t wait to look at the tracks in detail but there’s no way to cover all of them so I’ll only focus on my absolute favorites. Let’s get to it.

Pun starts off this album with the track “Beware” - true to his New York style, he incorporates a Mobb Deep sample which is perfect. The reason: the beat doesn’t overpower Pun’s lyrics. Essentially this is the first exposure we would have to his lyrical ability and flow, so to have a beat that highlights it and doesn’t drown him out is fantastic. Mobb Deep’s mellow flow on the chorus against Pun’s almost aggressive tones in each verse works well while the beat smooths everything out and makes this track amazing. Of course, Pun showcases what he’s known for throughout this track: rhyming and poetic technique. This happens throughout this album, but let's take a look at our first exposure in the first verse:

“I'm callin' out any rapper that I doubt/
smack 'em in the mouth/
Throw 'em in the yoke, BOOM!
then I knock 'em out/"

And then again:

“Flawless victory you niggaz can't do shit to me/
Physically lyrically hypothetically realistically/
I'm the epitome of catchin' wreck/
Catch you when you cash your check/”

I’m not about to give anyone a poetry lesson, but I commend those of you who caught the use of onomatopoeia and alliteration, not to mention the obvious rhyming. That was only the first verse, but I like I said, it’s laced throughout and the delivery is exceptional. This track definitely gives us a taste of what is to come.

This list just gets better. Next up, we have a “Super Lyrical” where Pun features Black Thought from “The Roots”. I love the song title, as it’s not only appropriate because we know Pun himself is “super lyrical”, but also because he samples Biggie on this one. Obviously this is one of my favorite tracks for this reason alone, but in addition, I also think the entire song meshes well together with Black Thought’s flow and lyrics as well. Pun did absolutely everything right with this, and the use of “Lyrically I’m suppose to represent” repeated is dope, plus the scratching adds depth and Pun’s delivery is dizzying. See below:

“Just call me Baby Jesus cuz lately, niggaz be praisin' me/
Just for the way I blaze to be crazily, tape to CD lasery/
It pays to be amazingly flavery/
Daaaaze 'em to my rhymes that basically hypnotize you occasionally/”

I also have to mention like I always do, I love references to other rap albums while incorporating wordplay, and Black Thought does it very well:

“The Roots bless you with a strong record/
Long like a epic/
Immerse you in some 'ol next shit, ill poetic/
Thought from Illadelph/
Somethin' like nothin' else/”

I love both of these guys and they delivered a flawless track here. I love everything about this one. Teaming up with Black Thought was brilliant, sampling BIG was even better. Incredible.

Immediately after Super Lyrical, there is a skit which really serves as a filler. I could do without the explicit sounds of Pun’s sexual adventures in “Tasters Choice” (albeit cleverly titled) however it is a good segue to the next track, “Still Not A Player” featuring Joe. Released in ’97, this was the first single off the album so it comes as no surprise the commercial and fan reception was HUGE. It hit #3 as a rap single and was largely to thank for this album's #1 spot in 1998. Now why was this track so incredible? Easy. Pun’s incredible and aggressive flow alongside Joe’s buttery smooth vocals made it an immaculate balance. This is Pun’s ode to the ladies, but cleverly worded so you don’t realize the promiscuous and crude nature. So clever in fact, you actually believe Pun when he says “Lay your head on my chest and feel my heart beat” and I’m a sucker for that line. It never fails, until I remember he also said: “I’m sick you couldn’t measure my dick with six rulers”..... thanks Pun. Regardless, it’s a dope track and definitely one of my favorites.

After this we have another “Intermission” that comes as no surprise because we are only 1/3 of the way through the album, but then we get to “Dream Shatterer”. This song is yet another excellent display of Pun’s lyrical abilities. It starts off with a sample of Richard Wagner’s opera “Ride of the Valkyries”, which reminds me of a "climb up" until Pun drops the first line which mimics a "shatter":

“Ay-yo I shatter dreams like Jordan, assault and batter your team...”

Again, the poetic devices are brilliant. Not to mention, Pun was a big dude, so his vocal endurance is astonishing. The guy doesn’t stop to take a breath, he just goes on. This track isn’t an easy one, there isn’t much repetition so when he compares himself to people like Jordan and Tony Montana, it’s with good reason. The wordplay here? astounding. Here are my favorite lines:

“I'm carvin' my initials on your forehead/ 
So every night before bed/ 
You see the "BP" shine off the board head/
Reverse that...”

“I'm the first Latin rapper to baffle your skull/
Master the flow/
Niggaz be swearin' I'm blacker than coal/”

“Higher and hotter than lava/
This scholar is 'bout just as smart as MacGyver/
To put honor inside the heart of a lion/”

Absolutely amazing. I can’t say enough about this guy. He kills it. On EVERY track. It’s at this point that I get a clue as to why this album is so appropriately titled “Capital Punishment”, as Pun brings his best and remains consistent, truly "killing" each song. Next up we have, “Punish Me” featuring Miss Jones. This is the token “heartfelt” track. Every rap album needs one! This is where we get the sweet guy who actually has emotions rather than the persona he maintained in “Still Not A Player”. Basically giving the listeners a run down of a failed relationship and how it went bad. This reminds me of “Song Cry” a little bit, but doesn’t make me as sad. This song harbors a whole lot of anger and pain, and I like that we get to see this side of Pun, it humanizes him and definitely makes it relatable. The lyrics though, definitely pull on the heart strings. I also love how he plays the second verse off the chorus like he’s actually talking to the girl:

“I felt stupid cupid struck me with a poison arrow/
Shoulda drowned ya when I found ya crushin in my boy's Camaro/
I didn't bother but you probably find your lover dead/
You robbed me of my honor, you ain't shit like my mother said/”

“Come back come back come back come back to meeeee, Punisher
Punish me... I've been so bad, so bad won't you come back?”

"Nah baby, I'm Not Gon' Be Able to Do It; You blew it/
Threw it away cause you was stupid/
Girl why'd you do it?/
I mighta knew it by the way you gave me your baby/
Then left a day before I ever saw the son that God made me/”

And it continues, getting a little more personal each time. Like I said, every “gangster” rap album needs a track like this. It's incredible when rappers can maintain their image, lyrical depth and consistency while opening up and being emotional without being sappy. Pun executed this perfectly, but I wouldn’t expect anything less.

I’m going to jump a few tracks to the midway point, “Caribbean Connection”, with Wyclef. Another one of my favorite tracks and easily one of the best on the album. This is where we get a massive dose of the “Latino” side of Pun. References to Castro and the chorus being primarily in spanish is definitely appreciated. What I like most about this song is actually Wyclef (I’m surprised I’m saying that). I don’t listen to Wyclef much, but I haven’t heard him quite like this. ‘Clef’s verse was at a higher standard, almost at Pun’s standard. Although their rap styles aren’t the same generally, he said these lines in Pun fashion:

“I turn Mr. Rogers Neighborhood topsy turvy/
Foes and enemies meaning the same in the dictionary/
This ain't Pictionary, all you see is the cemetary/”

He says it in true Pun fashion. I was thoroughly impressed with Wyclef’s flow here and since he wrote his verse, I was also impressed with his lyrics. I definitely think this collaboration was beneficial because it forced him to rap at a higher standard and I’m sure he’s better for it. I was impressed and because of both of these guys, this song is always ranked as a best!

Lets skip another handful of tracks and get to “Twinz” featuring Fat Joe. Now, this song is dope for a couple reasons:

1. For a long time I truly believed these two were brothers and this made me think they might actually be twins, so I love the title. 
2. Featuring Joe is sort of the “thank you”, considering Fat Joe was the reason Pun got into the commercial side of the industry back in ’95 anyways 
3. Pun and Joe’s dynamic is excellent and I almost forgot....THIS is the track that established Pun as a literary/poetic genius. 

It’s also the track I throw at anyone who disputes Pun’s greatness and lyrical excellence, as well as those who try to undermine the complexity and intricacies of this album. I would even go as far as to say, no other rapper has done this, as fluidly, methodically and creatively as Pun did. The only line I will leave you with on this note is...

“Dead in the middle of Little Italy/ Little did we know that we riddled some middleman who didn't do diddily/”

You would think after that it would be hard to continue the greatness, but not for Pun. He definitely goes on to display his greatness. Let’s skip another couple of tracks and get to another one of my absolute favorite songs, “Tres Leches”. Again, the spanish fusion is highly appreciated and what I love even more than that on this track is Pun partners up with Inspectah Deck and Prodigy. This song is a hip hop fans dream come true, so let me break this down. We have RZA on production with DJ Roc Raida scratching (which is incredible), and  we get a Rakim & Eric B sample, along with Wu-Tang samples AND Raekwon samples. Come on. This was destined to be great and a fan favorite. I love that each of them has their own name slipped into the chorus when they say it, the references to their own respective groups are used, everything about this song is put together flawlessly. Here’s what I’m talking about:

“Remember P, the one you got your whole style from?”

Inspectah Deck:
“Remember Deck, I told y'all, Protect Ya Neck”

“Remember Pun, I snatched away the moon and blew away the sun”

The alternating chorus with each of their verses just works seamlessly. This was truly a trio of very solid lyricists coming together, but if I had to pick the one line that takes would easily be Pun's with:

“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/"

Pun never ever disappoints and he never gets outshined. As we approach the end of this absolutely amazing album, let's take a look at the very last track "Parental Discretion". Pun throws Busta Rhymes on this track, even though it was only the chorus. Once again, great choice. In the 90's, Busta was in his prime so even a feature is a fantastic gift to the listeners, not to mention, the entire song maintains the consistency and lyrical skills we have come to expect from previous tracks. The poetic presence is still there, the flow, delivery, aggression... everything. Once again Pun nails it.

Although I didn't cover all the tracks, they are ALL good. They all come together to create an absolutely brilliant album. Tupac is regarded as a poet and his work is analyzed for literary devices, but Big Pun is nothing short. The constant and consistent use of intricate wordplay as well as his effective delivery of lyrical depth will always be Pun's signature and defining qualities. He knew what came natural to him and delivered nothing short of perfect. This album speaks to every one of his strengths. Again, it will never be regarded as a true classic to me only because of length, but remove the skits, intermissions and interludes, cut it down to 16 tacks and you have one of the greatest albums the rap industry has ever heard.

Comparable to albums from some legends, "Capital Punishment" gave us nothing but solid quality. This is one of the most listened to albums in my library and each time, I'm left speechless at how great Pun's work was. He will forever be missed.



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