‘Music is a universal language’: Pitbull shares stories at What Matters to U event

Pitbull speaks to students on March 29 in the Watsco Center as part of the What Matters to U event.
Pitbull speaks to students on March 29 in the Watsco Center as part of the What Matters to U event. Photo credit: Josh Halper

When Armando Christian Pérez, commonly known as “Pitbull,” walked out on stage, he was greeted by a roaring crowd of University of Miami students. Over 1,800 students filled the Watsco Center on Tuesday evening to see the superstar rapper and singer of their childhood speak at the What Matters to U (WMTU) event. Throughout the hour of conversation, between song lyrics and nuggets of wisdom, the audience got to know Pitbull’s story; one of passion, ambition and perseverance that all began here in Miami.

UM students made clear their affection for the Miami-icon with whooping cheers, flags, posters and even dressing in bald caps and the artist’s iconic sun-glasses.

“Miami has that attraction that the rest of the world doesn’t have, especially through music,” Pitbull said. “So again, it’s an honor and a blessing to be a part of 305 Dade-County.”

Though Pitbull ascended to international stardom, his humble Miami roots are still felt by those who meet him. Matthew Calle, a moderator of the WMTU event, said he immediately felt a Miami-kinship with Pitbull.

“He kind of represents Miami,” Calle said, a senior at UM studying music therapy. “I was feeling really nervous until I met him and I saw how much I can relate to him… He dapped me up, he gave me a hug, he was just great.”

Pitbull, a first generation Cuban-American, said that he has always loved Miami’s melting pot of cultures. The lessons Pitbull learned in the communities he grew up in are what he hopes to share through his music.

“Music is a universal language. It unites, it doesn’t divide, so that is what I try to do through the music,” Pitbull said. “My mother always told me ‘the pen is mightier than the sword, be careful what you write.’”

With his words and his music, Pitbull said he hopes to bring joy to people’s lives, to inspire them to follow their passions and to share his life lessons.

Pitbull said he found his own inspiration in the actions of Hope Martinez, one of his high school teachers at Coral Park Senior High. During breaks between classes, Pitbull would freestyle rap for his peers in the hallways of his high school. One day, Martinez broke through the crowd of students to break up what she had assumed was a fight. However, she was shocked to find a young Pitbull freestyling.

Martinez confronted Pitbull about his talent and told him to pursue his passion. From that point forth, Pitbull committed himself to his music and has since sold over 25 million albums and over 100 million singles.

“All you need is that one person that believes in you and she told me the biggest risk you take is not taking one,” Pitbull said.

Now, “Mr. 305” aims to be a similar inspiration for not only hundreds of millions of listeners worldwide, but for his Miami community as well. In 2013, Pitbull opened the Sport Leadership & Management (SLAM!) charter school in Little Havana, one of the many neighborhoods Pitbull grew up in.

“Living is giving,” Pitbull said.

Beyond his love for his hometown, Pitbull said that he also has a deep affinity for UM. When he was just six years old, Pitbull began parking cars at the Orange Bowl, Miami’s old football stadium that was demolished in 2008.

“I got a chance to see UM build that dynasty, I got a chance to see UM be the underdogs, I got a chance to feel that,” Pitbull said. “To be able to be here and see how much the University has grown, how much this University not only gives to this country but to the world and how it unites everyone from everywhere, it’s again a pleasure, an honor and very very special.”