Pitbull: Salty Dog

Cuban-American rapper Pitbull is something of an enigma.  Hailing from Miami and defying simple labeling in today’s stratified Hip-Hop landscape, the former battle rapper and Miami Bass aficionado known as Mr. 305 cleverly allies himself with the musical trends of the moment.  To his credit, Pitbull’s versatile approach to hit-making has enabled him to stay […]

Cuban-American rapper Pitbull is something of an enigma.  Hailing from Miami and defying simple labeling in today’s stratified Hip-Hop landscape, the former battle rapper and Miami Bass aficionado known as Mr. 305 cleverly allies himself with the musical trends of the moment.  To his credit, Pitbull’s versatile approach to hit-making has enabled him to stay relevant in an ever unpredictable popular climate.  Once a part-time envoy for Reggaeton in the United States with 2004’s crossover smash, “Culo,” he now has strong doubts about the viability of the Panamanian-born movement.  And with the passing of crunk’s heyday, Pitbull recognizes the need to embrace an even wider range of genres for his third official release, Boatlift, which is backed by beats from Lil Jon, Play-N-Skillz and Mr. Collipark.  Don’t be fooled by the album’s historically weighty title: if you’re anticipating a political manifesto from Pitbull, ask for his views on Cuba instead.  But if your preference is a string of VIP-studded club anthems that celebrate a medley of sound stretching from R&B to techno, cop his album on November 27th.  Miami rap’s Secretary of State, Pitbull conducts his diplomacy most effectively in musical terms.  Allhiphop.com: Your Myspace page says that you’re “Too Latin for Hip Hop and too Hip Hop for Latins”, what do you mean by that?Pitbull: It’s real simple: I’m almost like Pitbull aka confusion, I confuse people.  Awards shows in English tell me, No you’re too Spanish, award shows in Spanish tell me I’m too English, so I’m sort of in the middle, they don’t know how to categorize me. They don’t know what to give me awards for, but out of it all I have big records, big albums and a huge following.  They don’t understand me, [but] I take it as a benefit really, it allows me to tap dance not only through different cultures, but [also] different music genres, and be able to still be successful without people saying ‘Oh he did a slow record, he’s not street no more,” or “He did this record, he’s too street.”  So it’s cool, I let them figure it out and give me my own category one day.Allhiphop.com: Earlier on in your career, Reggaeton figured more prominently in your music than it does now.  In terms of the timing, what would you say the Reggaeton movement did to help you get on, and what made you move away from it?Pitbull: To be honest with you, Reggaeton didn’t help me, I helped Reggaeton get on.  So with that said, we opened the doors for them to get in here. A record like “Culo” was a record that spawned a whole different type of movement- playing on English radio, crossing over into pop and even into urban. That’s what opened the doors for a lot of these Reggaeton cats to come through. Not just me—Fat Joe opened doors, Noreaga [N.O.R.E.] opened doors, Lil Jon opened doors when they did records with certain people that introduced them to a new audience. Now, not only are they not appreciative of what these different artists did for them, but they can’t tap into that audience anymore, you feel me?Allhiphop.com: So that’s what you think happened to Reggaeton?Pitbull: What happened is for one: repetitive music.  I can’t eat steak everyday, nobody can.  For two, the artists thought they would cross over into all types of genres without speaking any English, that’s not going to happen. And number three, they priced themselves out the game, they thought they was that hot that they could get all this money for what they do.  Now do I see some cats surviving? Yeah, I do, I see a couple cats that are big enough to be able to survive if they’re open minded and know how to be creative enough. But right now it’s at a stagnant pace.Allhiphop.com: But do you think that for some of Reggaeton’s fans, part of the appeal is that it’s something all Spanish for the Latin people?Pitbull: I agree 100% that it’s got its Latin appeal. A lot of people feel pride for what they’re doing. But at the end of the day, any Latin person will sit down with you and tell you, “You know what? It’s too much.” You go in the club right now, you’re only going to hear the big Reggaeton hits. It went from a 30 minute set to maybe a 10 minute set in the club. Because at the end of the day, people wanna dance and they wanna hear good music, but they don’t wanna deal with the bullsh*t. And when you have guys that are from the same island rapping against each other, it’s stupid.  They are basically following what 50 Cent does, they think controversy is going to sell records. Allhiphop.com: The popularity of crunk has also waned a bit.  Given that fact, what styles and trends have influenced Boatlift?Pitbull: For me personally, what’s hot in the clubs and what’s making people go crazy is the whole house/techno movement, whether it be a Bob Sinclair record or Rune. Lil Jon and I actually grabbed the beat to Rune’s “Calabria” like it was a riddim and did the record called “The Anthem,” which is about to take over the clubs for 2008.  As far as crunk, Jon was truly the king of crunk and when he ain’t putting out those type of records anymore, then there’s going to be another movement. As far as that, he’s on to bigger and better things—he’s making crunk rock. He’s already thinking “How can I creatively expand this?” He’s all about energy at the end of the day, so however you want to bottle it up and name it or label it, that’s on the public and the press. But when it comes to making records with energy that make you go to the club and lose your mind, that’s what me and him will always do.  We live in the club. At the end of the day, you gonna hear a 15 minute set with Pitbull when you in the club, [laughs].Allhiphop.com: There’s also an R&B track with Lloyd on it [“Secret Admirer”], how did that come about?Pitbull: I did that record because I thought Lloyd would be the perfect fit, Play-N-Skillz did the beat, I knew exactly what I was gonna do when I made that record. I knew it’s going to be a sexy record that’s orientated for the women, that’s why when I shot the video, Manolo [Ribera, character played by Steven Bauer] was in there from Scarface, Fat Joe was in it, and it’s a sexy, street, edgy urban video. The videos gonna give the record a balance. As you grow as an artist, you know how you wanna feed the public your music. So you got “Secret Admirer,” a big radio record you got “Go Girl” with Trina which is a huge club record building on its own, and then you have “Anthem,” which is going to be the club smash, that’s how you set up your goal, and then it’s off to the races.Allhiphop.com: You also have the weed anthem on there, “Sticky Icky”…Pitbull: Yes, featuring Jim Jones, that’s my dawg right here. But I ran into a problem with it at radio, they were going hard with it but what happened was since Don Imus decided to attack Hip Hop and lyrical content, “sticky icky” became one of the words that the FCC decided to censor.  Allhiphop.com: Speaking of censorship, you’ve always given props to Uncle Luke for defending first amendment rights in Hip-Hop.  Now that all the wrong eyes are on Hip-Hop again, what do you think the impact of all this is going to be?Pitbull: We need another Uncle Luke, we need another person that’s going to go up there and say “You know what? F*ck you! I got my own rights in the constitution, I can say whatever I want to say on records, like it or not.” And instead… I respect Russell Simmons 100% for his hustle, but everyone’s trying to be so politically correct, it kind of makes Hip-Hop look like pu**ies. “Censor this, censor that,” what the f*ck can we say at the end of the day?  Right now the country is being run on fear. If it ain’t terror, if it ain’t the bird flu, now it’s Hip-Hop.  There’s always something that people have to turn to and point their finger at. They always looking for some solution to the problem they’ve created, and at the end of the day we’re not it.Allhiphop.com: The name of the new album is Boatlift, which like El Mariel suggests political content.  Are you planning on getting political at all on this album?Pitbull: To be honest with you, I’m not. It’s more of an urban album. I gave it the English title because the Spanish title threw off a lot of people. So Boatlift is basically a run-off of El Mariel. If you really think about the history, everybody’s pretty much come to the United States through a boatlift, whether they wanted to come or they really didn’t want to come. So the Boatlift is my way of giving them freedom through music.  To me, music is the universal language. As far as the whole Pitbull movement, they try to categorize me as Reggaeton, crunk, south, but really you can’t, ‘cause I jump on any type of music. Good music is good music at the end of the day- through music you can unify and unite different cultures no matter what their color or what their creed. That’s powerful.Allhiphop.com: You’re spoken in the past about having to be delicate with what you say in terms of political statements.  Would you say you avoid controversy on purpose?Pitbull: Where I’m from in Miami, it’s a very political city. The whole thing that’s happening in Cuba… a lot of people have different views as far as Cuban dictators or Che Guevara or whatever it may be. So when I make statements about Cuba, I have to be careful because for one I can’t go back to the island. That would be a problem in itself, but even if I was to sneak onto the island, people would say I’m putting money in Castro’s pocket. So it’s kind of a catch 22, but I definitely get my point across one way or another.Allhiphop.com: As the presidential elections are approaching, some of the candidates have announced a position on the Cuba issue, and Obama is saying people should be allowed to travel to Cuba now.  Where do you stand on that?Pitbull: I agree, people should be allowed to travel to Cuba, especially from Miami. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from Miami, and people that want to go back and see their family and do whatever they wanna do [should be able to]. To me, Castro is dead.  But communists are very strategic and they plan for what the future brings. So with that said, I agree 150%- we should be able to travel to Cuba without having to go through Canada, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica or wherever the f*ck they’re going through trying to get out there.  Allhiphop.com: What about the U.S. embargo on Cuba, what are your thoughts on that?Pitbull: I think as long as [the U.S. are not supporting] the communists, I think the embargo should be lifted.  I don’t think it should empower Raoul Castro, I don’t think it should empower Fidel Castro’s idea of what life should be.  But at the end of the day, you have to understand that one of Fidel Castro’s allies is a very powerful man by the name of Hugo Chavez, who has taken over South America. So with that said, he doesn’t need the U.S. right now, because Hugo is going to be able to pump money into Cuba, but the U.S. is gonna need Cuba in the future. Why? Because natural gas is the future, and Cuba is one of the biggest distributors of sugar cane.  That’s why everybody’s looking at Cuba right now.  Allhiphop.com: In terms of politics within the rap game, DJ Khaled has carved out a niche for himself making posse cuts like “Born and Raised.” Why do you think that kind of collabo can happen in the South more often than up North?Pitbull: Everybody down South mess with each other ‘cause we need each other.  The movement ain’t like what New York has.  The thing with the New Yorkers is they all started going at each other.  50 started that trend.  But the thing is… What the f*ck do I look like going at Trick Daddy, what the f### do I look like going at Rick Ross? People that done come up together, done seen each other grind, it don’t make no sense. Allhiphop.com: You’ve expressed some displeasure with TVT in the past… what are you thoughts on that situation now, do you see yourself making moves after this album?Pitbull: Like any other label situation you’re going to run into your problems, things that should be handled a different manner.  I’m a family man, if Lil Jon got a problem with the label, if Ying Yang got a problem with the label, I got a problem with the label.  That’s why you’ll hear the “Big Things Poppin” freestyle where I’m rapping about TVT, at the end of the day it’s the truth.  We’re gonna drop this album right here and then we’re gonna figure out exactly what we need to do to have a better situation.