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  • Writer's pictureEvan

Album Review: Capital Punishment

Big Pun had some of the greatest potential of any rapper in hip hop, which makes his death all the more tragic. However, with his debut album, Capital Punishment, he was able to cement himself as one of the most skilled rappers of his era. While his life was cut far too short, his legacy lives on through Capital Punishment, one of the greatest albums in ‘90s hip hop.

The album’s production encapsulates such a gritty and sinister sound. Pun, on top of rapping on every track, acted as executive producer for the project, and the final result is masterful. With producers such as RZA, Dr Dre, and L.E.S. involved, each track has its own unique sound, forming a sonically diverse album made cohesive by the fiery performances from Pun. There are pop tracks that sound like Pun’s attempt at radio hits like ‘Still Not a Player’ and ‘You Came Up’, sandwiched between grimy tracks of violence and competition such as ‘You Ain’t a Killer’ and ‘The Dream Shatterer’.

The opener, ‘Beware’, sets the tone for the record perfectly, with a sinister Henry Mancini sample acting as the foundation for the production. This sinister tone is built upon by the looping sample of rapper Prodigy saying, “I gave you fair warning: beware.” This transitions to Pun’s verses, where he establishes himself as a threat to anyone who comes up against him.

Pun’s rapping style is unlike anyone else. He has the suave nonchalance of Biggie Smalls but with the dynamic flows of Pharaohe Monch. He had one of the most effortless flows ever, being able to transition from slow to fast in a matter of seconds without it sounding gimmicky or obnoxious. A perfect example of this is on the track ‘Super Lyrical’ where Big Pun goes back and forth with Black Thought for the best verse. Pun’s flow is also incredible on ‘Boomerang’, where Pun describes the life he led in another town as a gangster before having to kill his enemies and leave town, wishing that he – like a boomerang – could go back. While many rappers favour lyrics over delivery, or emphasise flow over substance, Pun struck the perfect balance on Capital Punishment. He had such an articulate delivery, a dynamic flow, and a knack for storytelling.

The other artists featured across the album compliment Pun so well. Some features only provided hooks, such as Miss Jones on ‘Punish Me’ or Noreaga on ‘You Came Up’, but even their smaller contributions work so well with Pun’s style and hype the listener up for the next verse. More fleshed out features include the incredible ‘Twinz’ with Fat Joe, where Joe and Pun have such great chemistry as they go back and forth. Another phenomenal track is the gritty ‘Tres Leches’, with monstrous verses from Mobb Deep’s Prodigy and Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck. No feature feels out of place, and each one adds a new layer of excitement as the songs become a battle to hear who has the better verses.

Arguably, the album’s weakest aspect is in its length. Running for sixty-eight minutes and twenty-four tracks, it’s clear to see why some would say the album is bloated. However, I would argue that Pun uses every minute effectively. No two tracks sound the same thanks to the diverse list of producers, as well as the ever-changing flows from Pun, the range of features, and the different styles he tackles. There are poppy radio hits, grimy gangsta rap songs, and classic boom bap tracks. My only issue with the record would be the ”Taster’s Choice” skit which rivals Biggie Smalls’s “Fuck Me Interlude” for the most uncomfortable a track has made me on an album. Nevertheless, this is one of my favourite hip hop albums. An eighty second skit on a sixty-eight minute album is too minor an issue for it to change my mind.

With Capital Punishment, Big Pun proved himself to be a hip hop legend by releasing such a consistent and diverse record as his debut. With a fiery delivery, excellent skill for storytelling, and an unforgettable flow, he had already perfected his own style, and no rapper since has been quite like him. While he was taken from this world far too soon, his masterpiece will continue to be praised for years to come.


Fav Tracks: Beware, Super Lyrical, You Ain’t a Killer, I’m Not a Player, You Came Up, Tres Leches, Parental Discretion

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Sep 28, 2022

this is a hell of a write up, love it

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