This video is heartbreaking. Shattering the myth of the incredible wealth that hip hop generates for rapper and their families, Liza Rios reveals the fact that her and her children are currently living in a city shelter. After Pun's death his family was left with little financially and those in a position to help them have vanished. Fat Joe who has a financial obligation to the Rios family (especially since he continues to eat off of his association with Pun to this day) refuses to share any of the money that Pun continues to generate, withholding the royalties due to Pun's family.
Liza appeared on E! True Hollywood Stories: Rapper Wives and spoke about her and her children's experiences of abuse at Pun's hands. She also spoke candidly about this in the documentary released a couple of years ago about Pun, Still Not a Player. She has been shunned and even threatened by rappers close to Pun, including Fat Joe.
Apparently no snitching extends to speaking out against domestic violence as well.
Elizabeth M. Berry details the silence around abuse in the hip hop community in her piece for VIBE Magazine "Love Hurts: Rap's Black Eye". In this excerpt from "Love Hurts" about Liza Rios, Berry writes:
Before going to sleep, many little girls pray for a new Barbie, an Xbox game, or a trip to Disney World. At age 7, Vanessa Rios asked only that "Papi would stop hitting Mami." It was May 1999, and Vanessa was staying with her aunt, Penelope Rios Santiago, in Miami. After Santiago overheard her niece's bedtime prayer, she confronted her brother, Christopher Rios. His reaction? It wasn't true, he said.Liza has been courageously speaking out against domestic abuse and the lack of financial security that the families of famous rappers often experience for years and has unfortunately often been met with open hostility and contempt. As Liza continues to speak out I just wish that the hip hop community would listen.
Though he had much in common with other abusers, Christopher Rios was also different: He was Big Pun, a famous rap star. He first hit his wife, Liza, when she was 16, and over the course of their 10-year relationship, she claims he sent her to the hospital three times and prevented her from seeking needed medical attention on many other occasions. "One time he told me to change the batteries in his beeper," says Liza Rios, now 31. "I totally forgot about it, and he took this lead pipe and started swinging on me. I had my daughter in my arms, and I told Cuban [Link, who was there] to take the baby. After he finished beating me, my elbow was twisted out of place. I was limping for two months."
Each time Rios got up the courage to leave, Pun tracked her down and convinced her to come back to him. "After we got married and he had that paper, it was like he had bought me," she says. Still, though she was financially reliant on him, Rios began to loathe his extravagant displays. "I didn't even enjoy the jewelry, because it was, like, I got the extra bracelet because you punched me extra hard," she says.
Rios did leave Pun twice, but returned both times, and she was with him when he died of a heart attack in 2000. Backed by footage of Pun pistol-whipping her, she and other witnesses described his beatings in the 2002 documentary Big Pun: Still Not a Player, which she co-produced. Many criticized her for going public, among them Fat Joe, who argued that if there was abuse, Pun must've been justified. Others wondered why Rios waited until he died to tell her story.
For some women, speaking out while their abuser is alive is not an option. Murder at the hands of a romantic partner is a leading cause of death among African-American women between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that intimate partner violence in the United States leads to two million injuries annually and nearly 1,300 murders. "I tried to use my life as a testimony. I hope that somebody can learn from this story," Rios says during a phone interview. Another factor motivated Rios: Chris's assaults have had a huge and lasting impact on their children. "My son was smacking my girls up for any little thing," says Rios. "Even though they love Chris, my kids have a lot of anger, too. They still have nightmares, but my son has calmed down a lot. He hasn't hit his sisters in a long time."