“It’s like a king dies and passes his kingdom onto the prince," said Rivers, who is now 22 and pursuing a rap career of his own. "And then he’s got to show himself, and he wants to be greater than his father. So it’s one of those things.”
Rivers started chasing hip-hop stardom around age 18, and although he is quick to acknowledge the immense talents of his late father, he says they are not what drove him to enter the industry himself.
Given that Rivers was just six years old when Big Pun died, the hip-hop progeny made most of his decisions about pursuing music well after his father passed and maintains that he would have been a huge fan regardless of whether or not his dad was Big Pun.
“Whether he’s my father or not, I would’ve loved music," Rivers said, "but him being an artist definitely gave me something to strive for, and him being so great gave me an obstacle to overcome.”
Rivers views his famous father as a double-edged sword when it comes to launching his own career in hip-hop: the name recognition of Big Pun helps encourage people to listen to his music and and give it a chance, but it also makes it that much harder for him to carve out an identity of his own.
“A lot of people are more willing to listen to me, like give me an opportunity, a chance to do something,” he said.
“At the same time, I’m going to constantly be compared to him," he continued. "I’ve got to fight to develop my own identity and fight to get out of his shadow.”
Hip-hop pioneer Grand Wizzard Theodore, a fan of Rivers' music who is credited with inventing scratching, agreed that being Big Pun's son has been a mixed blessing for Rivers' career so far, as it has helped convince some people to check him out but made others more likely to assume he is not as talented as his dad.
"People will be like, 'This is Big Pun’s son. Let me see what his lyrical content is,' and stuff like that," he said. "Other people will be like, 'Oh, he’s Big Pun’s son, but he’s not Big Pun.'"
"That's the way it is," he continued, "but I just hope that he doesn't give up."
Rivers is not bothered by this complex relationship, describing it as an honor to be compared with his father and saying he is more than willing to take the good with the bad.
(WARNING: Video contains explicit language)
Rivers currently lives by Pelham Bay but grew up all over The Bronx in neighborhoods ranging from Soundview to Mt. Eden, so he says he has a hard time claiming one specific section of the borough as his own.
However, he is still proud of his roots in the birthplace of hip-hop and hopes his career will help New York return to its glory days of being at the center of the genre.
“The Bronx, New York was one of the most prominent forces in hip-hop, and now it’s one of those things that's kind of slept on," he said. "The South is killing it right now."
Reph, a member of the New York hip-hop duo Circa '95, said there were not that many MCs coming out of The Bronx right now, and he was happy to see how seriously Rivers seemed to be taking his roots in the borough.
"He’s received some recognition, I think, in the mainstream," he said, "but he’s also still in The Bronx performing and supporting the other MCs from his community."
Rivers has already put out multiple songs and mixtapes and written a track for the movie "Vamp Bikers Tres" but says he is waiting to put out an official album until he feels like it would have a bigger impact.
He describes pursuing hip-hop as similar to "playing the lottery with your life" based on how few people actually succeed in the industry. He tries to keep his music positive and focus it on overcoming obstacles that range from trying to pass a midterm to not knowing where your next meal is going to come from.
Although Rivers is not consciously trying to shore up his father's legacy with his own career, he described this as an inevitable and fortunate side effect of deciding to pursue hip-hop, as well as a way to pay tribute to his dad for helping him get where he is today.
"When people find out who I am, they're going to find out who he is," he said.
Rivers said he is learning more about Big Pun now than he did when he was still alive, especially because he left so many songs behind.
People have told him that his brain is similar to his father's brain, which makes it easier for Rivers to look at his lyrics and tap into how he was feeling when he wrote certain songs.
"I’m grateful," Rivers said. "I have so much to take from him even though he’s gone."
(WARNING: Video contains explicit language and drug use)