Pitbull: The Growl
Those who are quick to dismiss Pitbull's sound as merely bilingual booty-shake music would do well to remember that this dog's pedigree runs deep. Having family members involved in The Cuban Revolution, Operation Peter Pan and the El Mariel boatlift means that Pit knows a thing or two about strategy. With the fourth quarter release of his third album, The Boatlift, and the rapper finds himself at the proverbial crossroads every entertainer eventually comes to. Since he's never been a fan of gaudy jewelry anyway, we let him off the chain to discuss music, politics and culture. It's anything but "politics as usual," so watch your culo.
HipHopDX: Whats your mind state on this new album?
Pitbull: My mentality has always been to knock the record out, put it out or whatever, and then throw it out there. I call it The Boatlift cause I feel everybody, somehow or someway, came to this country in a boat lift. If not then theyre running across a border trying to get here. With that said, this album is my way of giving them freedom through music. Its my boat lift. Its my way of taking them on a ride.
DX: Both the title of this album and the previous one make reference to the El Mariel Boatlift of 1980, which your late father played a role in. For those who dont know, can you explain the significance of that event?
P: Its very significant because my father was involved in bringing three boats over from Cuba. He brought 547 people to freedom in Miami. There were 125,000 refugees that came over from Cuba during the boat lift, which lasted from a six-to-eight-month period if Im not mistaken. Its a vital part of Hip Hop because the whole movie Scarface was based on the boat lift. Everybody knows Scarface because its a story about going from nothing to something, which we all come from in Hip Hop. And [Tony Montana] was sort of like the good guy and the bad guy, which we all like in Hip Hop also. Im not trying to be Scarface or Tony Montana. Im trying to live more like [Alejandro] Sosaif they wanna take that movie and depict it for its attributes. That's basically Pitbull in a nutshell. I'm low key and proper when I have to be and a street when I have to be type of guy.
DX: There's an interesting balance there. Your family has very deep political roots, but your music reflects the Miami party scene reminiscent of 2 Live Crew in the early '90s.
P: Well I'm from Miami, born and raised. So, everything I tell you I've seen in the clubs, I've really seen it. If I talk about experiencing something in the street, then I've really experienced it. It's basically my biography on a record. Do I know how to make freaky records and shit that's gonna make the women lose their mind? Yeah, I know how to do that shit 'cause I've been raised around it and there's a bunch of freaky motherfuckers down here in Miami.
But, as far as you say Im striking a balance politically, that's how I capture people. If I don't hit you one way I'll hit you another way. Just know that you'll become a Pitbull fan by the end of it. You will say, "Damn I thought he was only doing some old pussy records like 'Toma' and 'Culo,'" until I hit you with "Blood Is Thicker Than Water," "Hustler's Withdrawal" or "Ya Se Acabo," which is a record about Castro. Then you'll go, "Damn he really put it down any way he wants to flip it."
I would love to do Kanye West [type] music and shit like that. But I gotta find my niche and how to get in. It's like a dope boy on the block. If you know them boys are over there selling yay, and they shit is fire, and these boys over here selling smack, and some other boys are over here selling regular weed or whatever they're doing, then you might have to come through with that kryppie. It might not be what I wanna sell at the time, but it got me on the block and people are noticing what I'm doing. From there you can take it to the next level. That's why I say I think it's only the beginning as far as what we're about to do. The reason I say, "We," is because without no Team Pitbull behind me, there ain't no Pitbull.
DX: Given those facts, when you name the album after an historical event and then include songs named "Sticky Icky" and "Dukey Love," are you trying to trick people into learning something?
P: It's like entertainment slash education. Like I said, it depends on how you look at it. You've got records on there with Trick Daddy, Jim Jones, Lloyd and Lil Jon. I just know how to make hit records and make music at the end of the day. That's what's gonna keep me hot out there. Of course there's a point in your career where you cater to [people] and then you get catered to. I feel like I'm still out there catering. I still gotta be out there giving the people what they want...always. Then it's going to get to a point where they just don't hear Pitbull they listen to Pitbull. I'd rather a slow grind but a for sure grind than have it come quick and leaver quicker. That's basically what I'm doing. We're laying the bricks little by little and building a foundation.
DX: As far as giving people what they want and being catered to, is there a point when you'd rather go in a different musical direction?
P: If you notice, on all my albums I sneak in a song to make people go, "Damn. I didn't even know Pit was doing it like that." On M.I.A.M.I., I had "Hustler's Withdrawal," and with El Mariel, I had "Blood Is Thicker Than Water" and "Raindrops." On this one I had a couple records that were very deep, but they didn't get cleared so you won't see them. There's still "I Don't See 'Em," featuring AIM and Cubo. That's my way of saying, "Yeah, I see you with your chains, big rims and you're stacking your money, but at the end of the day I don't see it." To me that shit is all a big facade. It's all smoke and mirrors.
DX: Last year you were involved in the Voto Latino initiative, a Spanish Language version of the national anthem, your own album and three guest appearances which all spent time on various Billboard charts. Do you ever get a chance to sit back on reflect on those things before you start a new project?
P: I don't really sit down and take no breath and acknowledge any of my achievements. I just keep going. I think when you get stuck on trying to outdo yourself, you never can. You can let that pressure get to you. That's why I don't read any blogswhether people are talking shit or praising me. I'd just rather keep doing what I'm doing knowing that the grind, hustle and hard work pays off. I don't get comfortable and say, "I made it." We ain't made shit yet. This is the beginning and now it's time to go make it.
DX: You've been affiliated with Luther Campbell, Lil' John, The Diaz Brothers and Wyclef. How important has networking and maintaining good relationships been in your career?
P: I think that's a key element of the game. You gotta know how to network and build good relationships. You can't burn bridges in this game, because you never know who's gonna be on top. You never know who's going to give you that helping hand. You always have to be humble and know that karma's a bitch...bottom line.
DX: One relationship that made some headlines was when you were in talks with Puff and Emilio Estefan to be a part of Bad Boy Latino. What ever happened there?
P: As far as Bad Boy Latino, I kind of backed out of that situation. I love what Puff does and I admire his business ethics. When were doing Bad Boy Latino, he had an idea of where he wanted to go with it and I had an idea of where he should have gone with it. Since we didn't have the same idea we sort of bumped heads. I said, "You know what, it's cool. You do what you gotta do." I still respect, admire and have a great relationship with Diddy, but at the same time, I might as well just go ahead and do it on my own. What I'm doing now is setting up my own thing so I can put out my own artist. I want them to be able to cross over too and touch multiple cultures.
DX: So what did you set up on your own?
P: From Miami I got AIM coming outAIM is just MIA spelled backwards. You've got Cornbread, Young Boss and Sincero. Sincero's gonna take over the Spanish market for me. I got producers I'm lining up, a publishing company and I have a label called Mr. 305 Inc. Thank God for that.
DX: As you set up your own label, are you at liberty to speak on your situation with TVT?
P: My label situation continues to be the same and whatever I have to say about it is the truth. When I put out a record like the "Big Things Poppin'" freestyle and I'm rapping about TVT, I'm rapping about that 'cause that's what it is. Whether they think they can or think they can't do something, I'll do it by my god damned self, so fuck 'em, whether they like it or not.
[Lil] Jon do it by his goddamn self too, and that's the reason we family the way we are. If John got a problem, then I got a problem. If I got a problem, Jon got a problem. Like I said, relationships are what make people powerful. There's no power in just being solo, but in unity there's power. As far as TVT is concerned, there are a lot of things they do wrong with their artists. But, then again, you can have major label nightmares or TVT bad dreams. Just know that with or without them, we continue to do what the fuck we gotta do.
DX: The average artist puts out about four or five albums during the course of a record deal. Since this is your third album, are you eyeing another situation when it's time to come to the negotiating table again?
P: When it's time to come the table I'll definitely go a different route. I'll probably do the whole independent game like Fat Joe. Then I can just eat off ringtones and cut certain deals. I'm a student of the game, so I sit back and learn from shit. Whenever things don't go my way I don't look at it as a problemI look at it as a situation.
Every situation has a solution, and the answer may not be that day, week or even that year. At the end of the day, you'll be able to take something you learned from that situation and apply it to the game. That's the only way to survive. You want to sit back and master this motherfucker, and I'm far from mastering this shit. I'm trying to be like Jay-Z. He's like, what 35 or 36, sitting on $400 to 500 million, right?
DX: Forbes has him at about $85 million.
P: Well, I want to be 36 and sitting on a billion. See, the one thing Jay-Z can't do is speak Spanish.
DX: Well you do have iTunes Latino and an even bigger market if you were to do that on the independent side.
P: Independent is a beautiful thing if you know how to handle it. If you don't know how to handle it then it's not the situation for you. You may want to have a label out there pushing your shit. We've been doing this for four years now, with a very, very minor label push. If you know how to handle the whole independent situation then I would suggest it, but if you can't I would tell you to take the major label route, my friend.
DX: I want to backtrack to the political side. You reached a lot of people with the voter registration campaign through Voto Latino last year. Are any candidates appealing to you so far?
P: It's hard for any candidate right now considering all the wrong our partner has done. Whoever jumps in that Oval Office is going to have their work cut out for them. I think [Barack] Obama and Hillary [Clinton] are my top candidates. Obama is very, very sharp. He's young, vibrant and he knows what the people want.
What I love about Hillary is that, for one, she's a woman. Plus, she spent eight years watching what her husband didif not dictating what her husband did. She's got a whole lot more experience and she's also for changing what the fuck has been going on in this country for the last eight years. So, I'm leaning toward Hillary, but they're both good candidates. I hope that when they step in office they can somehow, some way make right all the wrong that Mr. Bush has done.
DX: You have firsthand experience of what has been done since you deal with your own Bush down in Florida right?
P: We got firsthand experience because his brother only uses [Jeb Bush] when it's time to use him. Other than that, he pretty much...the only thing he can do for us is lower that goddamn tax.