Chris Rivers cannot escape the comparisons to his father, the late great Big Pun. The 19-year-old not only shares the same government name as his father, but also the same distinct voice. The youngest of Pun's three children, Rios is attempting to carve out his own path in the rap game. He used to go by Baby Pun, but now he's just known as Chris Rivers. He recently dropped a mixtape, Wonderland Of Misery (you can download it right here).
To find out more about the son of the Bronx legend, we got on the horn with Rivers. Rivers has a maturity when he speaks, making him sound far older than he really is. We spoke with Rivers about his new mixtape, what the legacy of Big Pun meant to him when he was younger, and why he wasn't mad at Joell Ortiz for his song, "Big Pun Back."
Interview by Dharmic X (@DharmicX)
You just dropped a mixtape called Wonderland Of Misery. Why don’t you tell us a little about that project?
I came up with the title to show people a wide spectrum of who I am. You can view life as either a nightmare or a dream come true, depending on perspective. It’s a wonderland and a misery and that’s how it was for me growing up. There are 26 tracks on there, they all have different feels.
The project features Styles P pretty heavily. He also has recorded stuff with your dad. What was it like working with someone like him who has seen your dad in the studio?
It was enlightening to a degree. He’s real cool in person, he’s always spitting knowledge—like what it takes to make it. The first time I met him he was telling me how dedicated I have to be. I’m still new in this shit so to be able to learn from a veteran is definitely a blessing.
You used to go by "Baby Pun." When did you change your name to Chris Rivers and why?
I used to rap when I was really young, around eight-years-old. I started taking it more seriously recently, two or three years ago. I changed my name because I wanted to be my own artist. I didn't want to be the next Pun or a little version of him. That’s what Baby Pun is really, a baby version of Pun.
I don't want to be like my father. I love my father and he's one of my favorites ever, but I don't want to be the next him. I want to be the first me. So I decided I wanted to change my name. I didn't know what was a good name, but I knew I wanted to be myself throughout my whole career. I thought Chris Rivers was the perfect name. My name is actually Christopher Rios, and Rios means “rivers” in Spanish. So it’s still my name, Chris Rivers, just a little bit spiced up.
I don't want to be like my father. I love my father and he's one of my favorites ever, but I don't want to be the next him. I want to be the first me.
You talked about how you started rapping when you were eight. This is shortly after Pun had died right?
Yeah, he died when I was six in 2000.
As a kid, did you understand what Big Pun's legacy was in the hip-hop community?
Not really. I knew he was famous. I knew he rapped. I was still wrapping my mind around the concept of death and the concept of how legendary he really was. I'm still seeing it today. After his funeral, there were people who had never met him balling in tears, taking their shirts off, dropping to their knees, and praying over his casket. The blocks were just crowded with people.
Even today, people show me so much love and respect just off the accomplishments that he had. When I was young I didn't really understand the impact, but growing up now, especially being in the game the last two years, I really see his impact even after 13 years of him being dead. He still is a legend in a lot of people’s lives.
Describe the challenges of creating your own style and sound while being the son of such a legend.
It’s a big challenge because the way I naturally write is similar to his. You know, the compound syllables, the voice, and stuff like that. He has influenced me, but I started listening to him more in that past two years. I never listened to him growing up.
I listened to a lot of Eminem. A lot of people have influenced me, like Black Thought and Mos Def. The biggest thing is growing out of the shadow of my father. It's a dope shadow to be in, don’t get me wrong, to be compared to someone so legendary. But at the same time I want to be perceived as my own man. I'm trying to develop my own name. It’s difficult when they're constantly comparing me because of similarities, but eventually I'll be respected for who I am. It's just a matter of time.
I've seen you say in interviews that rock music has been a big influence on you. Why is that?
Hip-hop when I was growing up, outside of a few artists, started getting to the point where it was real repetitive. That said, hip-hop saved my life a few times. It helped me get through the days, whether it was being homeless or at the shelter or just feeling alone. But it wasn't the songs about guns, money, hoes, alcohol, and weed. Those aren't the songs that saved me, it was the other ones. Songs with more passion, songs with a story, and songs that really challenged my mind.
After a while when those songs were harder to find, when the trash that’s out now was coming up on the horizon, I moved a lot to rock because rock had a different feel to it. It’s easier to find more songs with passion and an actual story where they actually say something. I’m somebody that appreciates lyrics and tries to write songs that make you actually feel something. Rock gave me that a lot growing up.
We were in shelters, we were homeless for a while. Eventually we got Section 8. We got out. It's really day-by-day when you're in that situation. If you're not dead by the end of the day, then you just have to get through the next day.
You spoke about being in a homeless shelter, which was a pretty well documented story a few years ago. Your mother spoke out about that and some of the issues you had financially with the money that Pun had made. Can you speak on that situation and how you guys were able to overcome that?
After he died, we was in a place that [Pun] was in the middle of building, but then that went through. I don’t really know, I don’t really ask questions about why, what, or where's the money. I don’t really care because it’s not my money. I didn’t earn it. I never had a sense of entitlement. It sucks going through what we went through but I never tried to blame anybody.
We pushed through. We were in shelters, we were homeless for a while. Eventually we got Section 8. We got out. It's really day-by-day when you're in that situation. If you're not dead by the end of the day, then you just have to get through the next day. You don’t really think about it while you're in there, you're just living it. It’s difficult but things just get better with time. That’s what you hope for. So when you’re there you have to try to get out of that situation. You can’t just accept it. It’s about moving forward and trying to keep a positive attitude through it.
A couple years ago, Joell Ortiz made a song called "Big Pun Back." Your mom spoke out about it and essentially said that you should be the only one to claim that Big Pun is back. What were your thoughts on the song and did you end up talking to Joell after that or not?
No, I've never spoken to him about it. Honestly, I think, not just with this situation but in general with the world, a lot of people just take things a little too seriously. I really didn’t care. I would never say that Big Pun’s back because I don’t want to be the next Pun.
I wasn't offended by it. He didn't say anything disrespectful or insult anyone. He just wants to be the next Pun. My father was a great artist so I can see why. I found nothing wrong with it, but my mom did and it’s understandable why she did.
I can’t even tell you the last time I've seen Fat Joe. Not in the last 10 years.
What are your current relationships with members of the Terror Squad?
I'll see Cuban [Link] here and there, he's cool. He still keeps in touch. I’ll see Triple Seis here and there. That’s really it. I don’t speak to any of them really, not because I have any problems with anybody but that’s just because, my father died when I was six and then everyone kind of disbanded.
Those are my father’s friends and my mom’s friends. They weren't around a lot growing up, it’s different if they were actively in my life but they weren't so it’s just other people from the past. No disrespect to anybody. But it’s just other people that I don’t necessarily remember that well so its not like I’m heavily tied to them.
When was the last time you saw Fat Joe?
I can’t even tell you. I don’t know. I probably saw him shortly after [Pun] died when I was younger, but I can’t even tell you the last time I've seen him. Not in the last 10 years.
Moving forward what can people expect from Chris Rivers as an artist?
I don’t know. It's hard for me to judge myself. I want people to download that mixtape and they can judge me for who I am. I'm never gonna half ass a song. I'm never gonna just put something out to put it out. I'm gonna give my all into everything I do. I take my artistry seriously.
If you like my music I'm gonna keep delivering and constantly get better. I'm shooting for a 2014 [XXL] Freshman, I see great things in the near future and hopefully people follow the “Dragons Up” movement. I'm a dragon, my fans are dragons. The dragon represents ascension and a blessing. Born dragons, and as I rise—they rise with me.