International music sensation Pitbull has sold millions of singles (including “Hey Baby” featuring T-Pain, the double-platinum smash “I Know You Want Me [Calle Ocho],” “Hotel Room Service,” “Shut It Down,” “Krazy,” and “Culo”); scored two No. 1’s on Billboard’s Rap Albums charts (his gold 2004 debut M.I.A.M.I. and 2009’s Rebelution, which also debuted at No. 8 on Billboard’s Top 200 chart); and has been featured on tracks by such pop-chart mainstays as Usher, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, and Janet Jackson. On the business side, Pitbull (whose given name is Armando Christian Pérez) launched his own Polo Grounds Music/J Records imprint (Mr. 305 Records), inked major sponsorship deals with blue-chip brands Kodak and Dr. Pepper, and capitalized on his enormous popularity in the Latino community by releasing his first Spanish-language album, Armando, which features the Top 5 Latin Billboard pop single “Bon Bon.” To top it all off, the Miami native was awarded his hometown’s Key to the City as a thank-you for all the positive PR he has brought Florida’s nightlife capitol.
So when Pitbull explains that he’s titled his new album “Planet Pit” because he feels as if the world is his planet right now, he’s not just blowing smoke. “I’m not suggesting I run the world, I just feel like I’ve built my own planet,” he says. “I’m catching a lot of people’s ears, whether it’s with my music or appearing on someone else’s track. When ‘I Know You Want Me’ took off, I started traveling the world, and I saw the impact that a global hit can have — the way it brings people together. So now I’ve set my goals even higher. Going in to make Planet Pit, I said, ‘Okay, Pitbull was cool, Mr. 305 was great — now it’s time for Mr. Worldwide.’”
You need to generate a lot of heat if you want to be Mr. Worldwide, but if there’s one thing Pitbull has — besides a way with rapid-fire rhymes, billion-dollar beats, and globally infectious hooks — it’s charm by the boatload. Always impeccably dressed in a sharp suit and shades, Pit enters a room trailed by his pals happily bantering away in Spanish, a gorgeous girl, and members of his management team. Even while juggling a constant stream of incoming texts and emails on his two smartphones, Pit has the ability to make everyone he meets feel at home, addressing them as “Mama” or “Papo,” and asking if they need anything. He’s the consummate professional: confident and charismatic — a true star.
Pit’s magnetic personality electrifies Planet Pit — a spicy, stylish stew of raps, beats, and hooks influenced by the music Pit has absorbed growing up and living in Miami, which claims a wide range of dance-driven sounds thanks to the Cuban, Dominican, Colombian, and Caribbean people who make it their home. “I grew up with salsa, merengue, bachata, booty-shaking music, freestyle music, then came hip hop for me. So you throw all that in a pot, which we call a paella in Spanish — that’s what I’m trying to do with this album,” says Pit, who performed in such far-flung locales as Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, and Singapore, among others, while promoting Rebelution. “It embodies a bit of everywhere I’ve been. For example, ‘Shake Señora’ has got T-Pain, who’s from Tallahassee, and Sean Paul who brings the Jamaican feel. I’m trying to be the ambassador; the bridge builder who brings elements from all over the world and puts it all together so it sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before.”
The album’s hot new single, “Give Me Everything,” catches fire thanks to the sizzling talents of Ne-Yo, Afrojack and Nayer. Much like the worldwide smash, Planet Pit is a star-studded affair that includes contributions by a host of pop music luminaries, such as singers Marc Anthony (“Rain Over Me”), Jamie Foxx (“Where Do We Go), Chris Brown (“International Love”), and Kelly Rowland (“Castles Made of Sand”). To blend the album’s diverse sounds into a seamless flow, Pit tapped top producers like David Guetta, Afrojack (“Something 4 The DJ’s), RedOne, Polow Da Don and DJ Frank E. In fact, Pitbull’s “Come & Go” which features Enrique Iglesias, marks the first time Pit has collaborated with super-producers Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, and Max Martin. “The goal for Planet Pit was to pack it with 10 big singles,” Pit says. “I want each track to be a huge record, not just two records and the rest is bullshit.”
With its relentless rhythms, the music is tailor-made for the clubs, but Pit has already proven that he can cross over to urban, Latin, and pop audiences with the Brazilian-influenced “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho),” which climbed to No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and hit the Top 5 internationally, including in the U.K. and Canada. His sound, combining hip-hop and Euro-dance elements with fierce rhymes and sizzling pop hooks, has proven to be a winner.
Onstage, Pit truly brings this highly personalized combination of styles to life by harnessing the raw energy of his live band. The interplay between the singer and the musicians creates a festive, spontaneous atmosphere that would be impossible to duplicate if Pit performed backed only by a DJ spinning tracks. “When the congas are pounding and the bass is thumping behind me, nothing can touch me. It feels like I’m riding a bolt of lightning.” But the real beauty of Planet Pit is that its creator never forgets his roots, and Pit’s wide-eyed appreciation for how far he’s come grounds his irresistible global music in a relatable humanity.
Pit learned the power of words from a young age. His parents were first-generation Cuban immigrants, and his father taught him to recite the words of Cuban poet and independence leader José Martí in the bars in Miami’s Little Havana. After his parents split, Pit had a complicated relationship with his father, who made a significant amount of money in the streets, but found that money that comes quick, leaves quicker. His mother also struggled to make ends meet, and Pit shuttled from one run-down home to another, even spending time with a foster family in rural Roswell, Georgia. Inspired by Nas and The Notorious B.I.G., Pit began rapping in high school after his mother kicked him out for dealing drugs. He managed to graduate and began to focus on his career, hanging out in clubs and performing wherever he could. Pit caught a break when Lil Jon invited him to appear on his 2002 album Kings of Crunk, and capitalized on the opportunity by following it up with several well-received mixtapes.
In 2004, Pitbull signed with TVT Records, which issued his three No. 1 independent albums, M.I.A.M.I.: Money Is A Major Issue (2004), El Mariel (2006), and The Boatlift (2007), earning Pit a reputation as rap’s most versatile leading man. Through collaborations with his mentor Lil Jon, Pit scored a number of club smashes, including “Krazy” and “The Anthem.” After TVT went bankrupt, Pitbull continued to be recognized for his work, winning the first-ever “Latin Digital Download Artist of the Year” award at the 2009 Billboard Latin Music Awards.
And now, as he gears up for the June 2011 release of Planet Pit, Pitbull’s chant at the end of “Where Do We Go” feels like a prophecy: “You must be blind if you can’t see the world is mine.”