After lots of anticipation, a polished documentary film production of Christopher Rios' life, better known as late Bronx emcee Big Pun, is finally about to be released. Director Vlad Yudin is unveiling Big Pun: The Legacy, this summer through his Vladar production company. Last week, HipHopDX spoke to Yudin about the film's making, its direction, and how the legacy of the superstar emcee can be properly evaluated, amidst several posthumous controversies.
Yudin explained his motives for telling the story, as the film began pre-production over two years ago. "Originally, we were all Big Pun fans; that’s what sparked the interest in us doing it. We were running a production company, and we all felt like Big Pun deserved more attention, in the media especially, because we all felt that he’s definitely getting a lot of respect from the Hip Hop community and people always remember him, but he never truly got a lot of attention from the media."
As many Hip Hop historians largely acknowledge Pun for his race and physical size, Yudin and crew acknowledged the man's unique microphone skills. "We talk about things that prior to that were not really talked about," began Yudin. "People always know him as the first Latino rapper to go platinum. People don’t really go into detail how he made his first album, how he got signed in the first place, who were the people closest to him that helped him to where he got, and really, what he was like after the success as well. It covers all of those aspects. People will definitely find all of those interesting details. What he was like in life with his family, an interesting approach as well, what kind of relationships he had with people. We really had a wide range of people that we interviewed, from executives that signed him to his record label, to his closest friends, to people basically from all over the US, various rappers that either worked with him or just recognize him." In regards to Pun's family, Vlad has worked closely with the rapper's widow, Liza Rios, making the work all the more authorized by the estate.
Because of this authorization and access, the documentary will prominently feature never-before-seen footage of Pun's life and music. "That was actually one of the hardest things to get because it was a lot of research done by us. There’s definitely a lot more material on various other rappers, but on Big Pun, it was definitely very difficult to come by," Vlad admitted. "There’s definitely going to be a lot of exclusive footage that people have never seen before. [There’s] some stuff never seen by anybody from the family archive, like you said, from Liza’s [role in the project], but also some stuff that we found [from] before the deal and after the deal, so definitely there’s going to be some things that people have never seen before - the majority of it, actually. Besides the music videos that people have seen, everything’s going to be exclusive."
With interview commentary from Snoop Dogg, Method Man as well as The Terror Squad, Big Pun: The Legacy also tries to acknowledge the rapper's acceptance in underground, street and mainstream levels. "He always got respect from the Hip Hop people. He’s always being remembered. We interviewed people from all over the place [and] people loved him. They loved his style. He was able to be commercial and at the same time, be loved by the community. So we did interview superstars in Hip Hop, we interviewed people from the underground, and everybody has pretty much the same response," said Vlad, who also spoke to Jim Jones, Xzibit, Rosie Perez and Loud Records CEO Steve Rifkind.
From these interviews, both Vlad and producer Edwin Mejia were surprised by some of what was revealed. One interesting tidbit tha Yudin found interesting was shared. "When he was already a platinum artist, when he was already very successful, he was always seen in his community. He never moved out of the Bronx. He pretty much lived in the same area as where he was from originally, he just moved into a bigger house. [He] never left. There’s a segment in the film where we talk about rappers going to Jersey or Connecticut or upstate New York, but he stayed in that same area."
Staying close to the hood, video footage and Terror Squad disputes have challenged Pun's actual legacy. The film realizes this, but lets the story tell itself. "There’s been different controversies, especially the things after his death. We tried to focus more on him when he was alive, about his career. So we didn’t go into the problems after the whole break-up of the crew and everything like that," said Yudin.
Mejia interjects, focusing on the positives, "What I’ve learned through all the interviews that we’ve done, whether it’s from Snoop Dogg, Xzibit, Jim Jones, whoever it may be, we learned that he was a comedian. He had a great sense of humor and he was able to carry that throughout his career, throughout his life, regardless of how successful and famous he was."
As far as the time-table to make the 90 minute film available to fans and students of Hip Hop, dates are materializing. "We’re planning to make an announcement in the next couple of weeks. The film should come out, we hope, this summer. I can’t tell you the date yet, we’ll make an announcement…We plan to have a few more screenings in theaters."