The tagline for “Still Not a Player,” a documentary on fallen rap star Big Pun, reads: “At 26 he became the first Latin solo hip-hop artist to go platinum. At 28 he was dead.”
But as the movie shows, there was more to Pun than most ever knew. Family members, such as his wife, Liza Rios, and peers like Nas, Noreaga, Ice-T and his mentor, Fat Joe, all give firsthand accounts of their dealings with the lyricist, helping to paint his biography.
“To hear other people talk about him, it helped me out,” Rios said. “It was therapy. [There were] a lot of things I didn’t know that came out of conversations. The relationships he had with different artists – to hear other artists like Nas, who he looked up to as a mentor, giving him props… To hear people like that giving him love, it felt good.”
Rios said she was approached by “Still Not a Player” director Marcos Antonio Miranda last year, and eight months after they started shooting they had accumulated more than 100 hours of footage that’s been edited down to around two hours.
“My stories, I had to dig in deep,” said Rios, who was with Pun when he passed away. “It’s only been two years [since he died], but I had blocked a lot of things out…. [Making the film] was a good experience, and I’m glad I did it.”
Besides the well-documented stories like Pun’s rise to fame and his battle with depression, which had a hand in his obesity, several new revelations come to light in “Still Not a Player,” including abuse suffered during childhood, homelessness as an adolescent and his mother’s drug problem.
The most shocking discovery for Pun’s fans will probably be that he at times was abusive as a husband. One scene shows footage from a home security camera of Pun striking his wife with the handle of his gun.
“I’m assuming that a lot of people [will be] shocked,” Rios said. “Even Fat Joe didn’t know it was going on. People see him as Pun, the rapper, he had bitches, he went double-platinum. Everybody thought we were living the life and I was Miss Princess. In real life we went blow for blow. He was depressed, he was not happy with himself. They’re gonna realize, ‘Wow, he was really 600 pounds. Who’s helping him with the day-to-day life?’ ”
Despite the domestic turbulence, Rios said Pun was every bit the person fans fell in love with.
“I hope it doesn’t tarnish [his image]. He kept it real. He represented his people. He was a great person, but the brother still had problems. In the footage I say I’m very proud I met my husband. I always had his back; he had mine. The reason why I stood with him was because he had a golden heart.”
Rios said she’s the only member of Pun’s family to see the film so far.
“I cried, I laughed,” she recalled. “After it was over, in the morning I felt free. It’s like closing a chapter from my past. That’s what I wanted to give his fans. That’s the story of Pun’s life. It’s not pointing the finger at anybody, it’s a situation. You get the cards you were dealt, and that’s it.”
“Still Not a Player” is scheduled to air on pay-per-view this spring and will be released on DVD and VHS June 18.