The Rise of Pitbull
Our final guest columnist for Rhapsody Latin Week 2012 is Sugey Palomares, a Cuban and Argentinean freelance writer and editor who has published works on a wide range of issues, including politics, culture, music, entertainment and more. Her works have been featured in popular publications including Urban Latino Magazine, MTV Tr3s, and Rolling Stone. She currently works as a full-time associate editor for Latina Magazine.
Many listeners only know Pitbull as every fist-pumping clubgoer's dream come true, but don’t let his curve-shaking beats fool you: Despite his signature raunchy, spitfire lyrics and addictive dance beats, at his core he's a marketing genius long in the making.
Everything down to his stage name has been well thought out. Born Armando Cristian Perez, he picked his moniker based on a pitbull’s stubborn habit of being "too stupid to lose," as he put it. Also known as Mr. 305, the Miami native and first-generation Cuban American has slowly shed his local nickname and given himself a more global title: Mr. Worldwide. Now, with his seventh studio album, Global Warming, set to drop next week, the rapper/singer/party-rocker is building his international empire hook by hook, beat by beat and deal by deal.
His plan for total domination finally came to fruition with his last studio album, 2011's Planet Pit. Augmented by big-shot producers from David Guetta to RedOne, Pitbull’s infectious sound evolved into a perfect hybrid of pop, hip-hop, dancehall and tropical bliss. You couldn’t go to the gym, the mall or even my parents' house without hearing one of his hit tracks -- most notably “Give Me Everything,” co-starring Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer, which topped the Billboard Hot 100 and landed him an endorsement deal with Kodak thanks to these remarkably unsubtle lyrics: “Me not working hard?/ Yeah, right! Picture that with a Kodak/ Or, better yet, go to Times Square/ Take a picture of me with a Kodak.”
His 2011 deal with the photography giant ended up popping his endorsement cherry, so to speak: The “I Know You Want Me (Calle Oche)” singer soon signed deals with Bud Light, Dr. Pepper, Zumba Fitness and Fiat. Aiming even higher, he also decided to give other celebrity alcohol brands a run for their money and launched his own vodka company, Voli. Would you like ice with that?
While some emcees get labeled as sellouts for inking too many business deals, the difference with Pitbull is that he never abandoned the creative force that made him hot in the first place, a style honed through dozens of hit collaborations with artists like Usher, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. Both of his singles with J.Lo, “On the Floor” and “Dance Again,” went platinum, and helped welcome the Boricua pop diva back onto the airwaves.
As for Pitbull, he inked his blueprint for success long before he'd even signed his first record deal in 1999. Back then, Pit was mentored by music-industry giant Irv Gotti, who advised him to drop the gangster vibe because "that sh*t didn’t make any money." Not that he exactly cleaned up his act in response. In 2004, the R-rated single “Culo,” produced by the Diaz Brothers and Lil Jon, made having, uh, assets (pun intended) cause for a celebratory anthem. The bilingual track may not have been too popular with some feminists, but it quickly became a club favorite and officially made Mr. 305 a household name.
As 7.5 million Twitter followers eagerly await Pit's new album and next business venture, the man himself keeps making his international rounds. He just wrapped his European tour, and he ends his series of Latin American performances next month in Mexico. He also plans on taking over his hometown of Miami this New Year's Eve.
Since his initial groundbreaking success, Pit has proven to be a relentless hitmaker and ambassador alike, his lighthearted fantasy tracks peppered with sexual phrases and a pure love for life. If he happens to sell a few Kodak cameras, Fiats and Dr. Peppers on top of that, then so be it.