15 years ago in hip hop years seems more like a million years ago, but instead it’s often referred to as one of the golden eras in rap. 1998 saw the release of Lauryn Hill’s Miseducation, Outkast’s Aquemini, Juvenile’s 400 Degrees, and of course the introduction of DMX twice! with both his debut It’s Dark and Hell is Hot and sophomore album the same year.

Big Pun’s debut was released in the midst of an already great year for music, but catapulted because not only was he able to have commercial success thanks to “Still Not a Player,” but he also displayed insane lyricism, and breath control that was damn near unreal for a guy of his stature. Before albums of today only offered up 10 to 12 tracks at the most, Pun gave us 24 tracks complete with funny skits, sharp lyrics, and vivid story telling all of which helped him to become the first Latino rapper to ever go platinum.

“You ain’t a Killer” calls out the fake gangstas and lures them in for bait, while “Dream Shatterer” threatens to do just that, with bragging rights included “Sometimes rhyming I blow my own mind like Nirvana..” But Pun exemplified that when paired with other rappers he had to always put his best foot forward. “Super Lyrical” had the Bronx MC trading barbs with The Roots’ Black Thought. Complete with classic samples from Biggie and Nas, Pun and Thought run a tight race before Pun lets his nuts hang lyrically:

Ay-yo peace Roots east coast niggaz reppin’ the streets most
With heat, toast, and keep close more Phillies than Pete Rose
These dos, niggaz that’ll lift ya mentals
Lyrics’ll twist your temples into pretzels
like the “Triumph” instrumental

But still Pun’s highlight moment, at least the most known is that displayed on “Twinz” (Deep Cover ‘98). Featuring Fat Joe, the Punisher delivers his most impressive tongue twister effortlessly in one breath: “Dead in the middle of little Italy/Little did we know that we riddled some middle men who didn’t do diddly”.

Pun was admirable in the sense that he embraced his bigger frame and was still able to put a chokehold on the rap game. His debut was multi dimensional tackling a range of subjects from a love lost, (“Punish Me”) to uptempo tracks (“Caribbean Connection”). Who’s to say where Pun could’ve been today if it wasn’t for his untimely death February 7th, 2000?Capital Punishment will be remembered as the album that didn’t have to sacrifice it’s art for radio. Here’s to 15 years.