Big Pun was 28 when he died in February 2000 due to heart failure and extreme obesity; nearly 700 pounds with an enlarged heart, about three times the normal size.
Pun’s rise in hip-hop was fast and steady, and so was his weight gain. When Capital Punishment was released in 1998, he weighed in at 400 pounds. By the time of his death, just two years later, he weighed 698 pounds, and could no longer tie his own shoelaces.
Known for his remarkable live performances, Big Pun was less and less able to get around because of his weight. “Given his size, Pun’s performance is filled with suspense,” critic Rob Marriot wrote in the Village Voice. The hot lights and physical activity on stage clearly tested the rapper’s stamina, and audience members often wondered if he would make it through a set.
He wasn’t always a big guy, at 18 and 180 pounds he won a $500,000 lawsuit from a childhood injury at a construction site. His wife Liza Rios said “He went crazy. You give a kid from the hood with no guidance.” She remembers the purchases including Nautica, Gap, gold rope chains, and incessant meals at iHop and Bennigan’s. “He was really bad with money,” Liza admits. This was also the era when the would-be star MC began to over-eat regularly, prompting drastic weight gain.