Nicole Rodriguez is on a mission to rename Rogers Place in the Bronx after her big brother: the late Christopher Rios, "Big Pun." Nicole is seeking community support for her online petition campaign at www.bigpunplace.com to have 163rd and Rogers Place renamed Big Pun Place in honor of the Grammy-nominated rapper.
Big Pun, a Puerto Rican and raised in the South Bronx, emerged from the underground scene in the late 1990s. His album Capital Punishment was the first by a solo Latino rapper to go platinum. He was also the first Puerto Rican rapper to obtain commercial success. He died in 2000 at 28 because of heart failure.
Bronx Latino speaks to Nicole about Big Pun, her relationship with him and her ongoing and controversial movement to get the street named in his honor.
BL: Please tell me a little about you and about your relationship with your brother Christopher Rios "Big Pun."
Nicole: Growing up, we were extremly close. Chris was not only my brother, but he was also my father figure. And, I must say he played the role very well.
BL: What do you remember most about him?
Nicole: What I remember most of my brother is his sense of humor. It is known that whenever you in his presence, you will be laughing because he was quite a character who loved playing pranks, especially when you were caught off guard.
BL: The Bronx is considered the birthplace of hip hop. How do you believe Big Pun contributed to rap?
Nicole: I believe he contributed to hip hop by creating a new breed of sound. The rapid tongue twisting of his words is not easy to do and no other was rapping that way, especially spitting logic at the same time.
BL: What do you believe is Big Pun's legacy? Why?
Nicole: Big Pun's legacy is to leave behind to the world proof that "anything is possible" and that "you can make the best out of a bad situation." Any positive affect he has had and continues to have on anyone is what his purpose in life was and always will be.
BL: Why are you fighting to have a street in the Bronx named in his honor?
Nicole: It's not just any old street I am trying to rename, but a street that served many purposes for him. This street meant so much to him: much of his talent was practiced and entertained on this street named Rogers Place. Even after 11 years of his passing, murals haved been made yearly, attracting locals and tourists from all over the world. This has proven that he has already earned ownership of his place here on Rogers Place, so why not make it official by renaming the street after him?
BL: What has been the biggest challenge in your fight to name the street? Have you had much support and what do you need to help make your dream a reality?
Nicole: Yes, I have faced a challenge --"His personal and marital life" that gained lots of media attention. The great thing is there are more supporters now than ever. In reality, there are much more forgiving people with open minds who choose not to judge, especially when no one is perfect. The loyalty from fans still 11 years later has shown there is a chance. With their support, we can raise petition signatures at www.bigpunplace.com.
BL: Big Pun struggled with obesity, which led to his early death. What advice would you give people struggling with obesity especially since the Bronx is plagued with obesity, diabetes and other health problems?
Nicole: Not only did my brother struggle with obesity, I also struggled with obesity during my adolescent years. The advice I would give people struggling with this serious issue is to first love yourself and recognize that being severly overweight does not make you "ugly," but it is unhealthy. Dont prioritize the need to loose to please others, to look good on the outside or to look like the girls on modeling magazines. Educate yourself on this illness and understand you first must be healthy from the inside to live a long and healthy life.
BL: Big Pun continues to have a fan following. What message do you have for them?
Nicole: Yes, Yes ,Yes. He sure does have a huge fan base both local, in the US and global wide. I would love to tell all of them "Thank You" for staying true, keeping his legacy alive by continuing to play his music. Thanks for all those who now share his music with their own teenage children. My brother truly loved his people and his fans, and I know he is our angel.
BL: What is your favorite Big Pun rap and why?
Nicole: My favorite Big Pun song rather was Carribean Connection because I love reggae music, so the beat really had me going on the dance floor.
BL: Do you have anything else you'd like to share?
Nicole: I would like to ask all of the fan and supporters I spoke of for their continued support and they can do so by signing the petition to have Rogers Place in the Bronx renamed to Big Pun Place at www.bigpunplace.com. Also, I ask they look out for a book I wrote detailing the true story of our life growing up and the traumatic events that took place. You all have a chance to get to know him before the fame and better understand why he was who he was. The name of my up and coming book (not yet published) is Punish...Her/Sister of a Legend: The Nicole Rodriguez Story.
-- Clarisel Gonzalez
(photo of Big Pun and Nicole Rodriguez)