Releasing post-humus albums is a tricky thing, as some are really good, while others are a disaster. Rawkus Records did an excellent job with Big L’s “The Big Picture,” but Puff Daddy all but ruined Biggie’s “Born Again.” Latino rapper Big Pun had his second album, “Yeeeah Baby,” come out after his death, although the album was completed before he died. Fat Joe decided that Pun’s remaining unreleased cuts should be heard by the fans. Those songs,
coupled with some previously released material, comprise what will be Pun’s final disc, “Endangered Species.”
The first single, the previously unreleased “How We Roll,” is a more watered-down version of Pun’s material. Even with the radio-aimed beat and sung chorus Pun still has the sharp lyrics, taken from his earlier track withthe Ruff Ryder's crew. “You know I’m well known like Al Capone, fully blown like Tony Montana / In a zone, sittin’ on chrome, stoned sippin’ on cham-pagna / Rollin’ ganja up in bible papers, see how high the lye can take us / Through the eyes of Christ, John, Elijah, Jacob.”
The other unreleased tracks are closer to Pun’s style. “Mamma” plays off of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and proves that producer Alchemist can make beats that arn't always dark. “Brave in the Heart,” featuring Pun’s crew Terror Squad, showcases not only Pun’s lyrical ability but shows the whole Terror Squad has skill. The last of the new tracks, “My World,” is a bit rough, but is a very solid song and could have been a classic with some more work.
The rest of the album features some of Pun’s best work, consisting of classic tracks and excellent guest appearances. Songs previously on Pun’s first album start the album off. “You Ain’t a Killer,” “Twinz (Deep Cover ‘98)” and “Still Not a Player” still sound great after all this time. “The Dream Shatterer (Original Version),” has a better beat than the version included on “Capital Punishment.” Also here is a song recorded for Pun’s first album, but only found on his first single, “Wishful Thinking.” It’s a great track with a very dark feel.
It’s hard to deny that Pun was one of the best lyricists of his time. Check Noreaga’s “Banned From T.V.,” Fat Joe’s “John Blaze” and “Firewater,” or the Terror Squad’s “Watcha Gon Do” if you have any doubts. There is also the classic “Off the Books” by the Beatnuts, the song that exposed Pun to the masses.
For all the highlights, there are some puzzling things about this album. Where is Pun’s first hit “I’m Not a Player?” Granted the remix was the song that blew Pun up, but it seems you would include that song over “You Ain’t a Killer.” Why is the listener again given the edited version of “Still Not a Player,” even though there is an uncensored version to be heard? Why is the Ruff Ryder’s track “Pina Colada” here over other great Pun appearances, such as the still unreleased “Toe to Toe,” with Cuban Link? Finally, why did Pun even record “Livin’ La Vida Loca (Remix)?”
Overall, while some song selections are suspect, most of the album contains Pun’s best work and is a great listen from beginning to end. This album was done right. It is less an exploitation of Pun’s death, but rather a celebration of his life.