Just a few years ago, the rest of the world never knew Armando Christian Perez would transform into Pitbull, a budding rapper with a promising career in the highly competitive world of hip-hop. Now, times have changed and everyone is trying to get a piece of Pit, which was evident during the interview when his cellphone abruptly cut him off mid-sentence. Quickly breaking into Spanglish, the Cuban-American MC apparently has business to handle. After hanging up the phone, he says, “I apologize about that. It’s my banker.” While attempting to deal with the attractive novelty of superstardom and balancing a heavy agenda, Pitbull displays a refreshing degree of humility.
Born in the “hood” of Dade County, the 24-year-old rapper’s hustle is almost instinctual. Describing both of his parents as “hustlers,” Pitbull is a product of the streets. Once a drug dealer, reflecting on that time in his life brings no regrets. “The streets teach you how to hustle and how to think three, four steps ahead of the game,” he says. When realizing that music was more promising and lucrative than the drug game, he applied his street hustling skills to break in the predominately Black rap industry. “With my skin color being white and me being Cuban and from the South, everybody was like, ‘What the fuck is this shit?’ But now they got it. Now they are embracing me.”
In 1998, he found himself on the set of a DMX video having a freestyle battle with Ruff Ryder’s Drag-On. A buzz soon followed around the industry about his skills and shortly after, he found himself signed to Luke “Uncle Luke” Campbell’s label, Luke Records. After amicably parting ways with Campbell, Pitbull landed a deal to the record company responsible for bringing the “crunk” phenomenon to the mainstream TVT Records. The rest is history. “I never really got any big breaks,” says Pit recalling his rise in the industry. “I found ways to create opportunities for myself.”
Since the release of his debut, M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is a Major Issue), the album has become the biggest-selling bilingual hip-hop debut in more than a decade. After hit singles such as “Dammit Man,” “Culo” and “Toma” blowing up on urban stations in the South, Pit says, “I don’t think da Vinci or Michelangelo could have painted me a better picture,” commenting of the success he has generated from being on the independently run label. “It’s been a blessing and I’m just here to take advantage of these opportunities.”
Another blessing that has come with the company is his friendship with label mate and hit maker Lil’ Jon. After meeting Jon in 2000 in Miami, he had Pitbull guest-appear on his double platinum album, Kings of Crunk. When it came time for Pit to enlist producers for his own debut, it was a no-brainer for Jon to return the favor. When asked what he has learned as result of working with Jon, he says, “I’ve learned to work hard and don’t stop…to keep grinding, stay humble and not to get too comfortable.”
As far as upcoming projects, Pitbull has his paws in all areas of the game. He recently remixed his current single “Toma,” which he promises will have some “pretty big names on it.” This Saturday, he will be one of the many artists, ranging from The Game to Faith Evans, performing at Spring Fest at the Bayfront Amphitheater. Of his performance, he warns it will be “loose, wild and crunk.” And while it was reported that his follow up album would be an all-Spanish album, those plans have been put on hold due to a conflict of interest with his label.
Outside of music, he plans on opening the doors for other minority rappers, like Fat Joe and Big Pun did for him-by starting his own label. And no matter how successful Pitbull becomes, he realizes that there is always more to be accomplished. “I don’t think you can measure success, because I think there’s always somewhere else you can go with it,” he says before adding, “I don’t want anything to come too quickly, because whatever comes quickly, leaves quicker.”
Marcus Washington can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.