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What others simply talk about, Pitbull is about—from his ‘04 debut album, M.I.A.M.I., onward, the Cuban-American rapper has consistently turned out massive hits in a musical climate in which many big-name artists are struggling to stay afloat, all while operating under a label deal that hampered his creative freedom. Now that Pit’s graduated from the “TVT School of Hard Knocks” and moved on to a major deal with Polo Grounds/RCA/Mr. 305, Inc., the emcee’s ready to parlay his tremendous indie success into what can only be described as a full-scale musical Rebelution.
Arriving in record September 1st, Pit’s fourth studio album comes on the heels of a year’s worth of hit singles. Fueled by the success of Lil’ Jon collabo “Krazy,” “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho),” “Blanco” (originally released as a single off the Fast & Furious soundtrack) and current selection “Hotel Room Service,” Rebelution will be an LP that Pitbull devotees and newcomers alike can rally behind.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Pitbull steps into the Booth to discuss his excitement entering into his new label deal, the meticulous research that goes into creating a club smash, and the real story behind that Internet-famous knockout punch.
Listen to the Interview
Pitbull Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a Latin emcee whose legend grows by the day. Gearing up to release his first major-label project this fall, please welcome the man behind the upcoming Rebelution. Pitbull, how you doin’?
Pitbull: Woo! Not much, man. Just out here workin’ hard and doin’ what we do best: grind, hustle, and anything possible to create new opportunities.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Thank you so much for takin’ the time to join me inside the DJ Booth.
Pitbull: No problem; thank you for havin’ me, bro.
DJ Booth: We last spoke back in June of ‘06. So, a lot has obviously changed for you, both personally and professionally, since then.
DJ Booth: During the past three years, did you experience any moments of clarity which helped you get to the point that you’re at right now?
Pitbull: You know, I was in a situation that had me… I would almost look at it as my Cuba. I was there, I was able to function, but I wasn’t able to have freedom to do what I wanted to do. That was when I was over at TVT Records. Actually, the staff was great; the only person that was holdin’ me down was Steve Gottlieb.
DJ Booth: Since your parting with TVT Records, obviously you’re entering a new foundation and a new chapter in your career. Are you satisfied now with where you’re at?
Pitbull: Definitely. I mean, more than satisfied I’m excited, I’m happy. And not only that, it’s like a fairy tale ‘cause I get to do business with Brian Leach over at Polo Grounds, which, we did did a 50/50, so it’s Polo Grounds/RCA/Mr. 305, Inc. I also got the chance to do a distribution deal with Sony Latin, so I got two different deals, two different entities, and I’m able to do what I was supposed to be doin’ all these years, but I was just tied up over at TVT. But really, I loved the whole TVT situation. I don’t look at it in a negative way, because to me it was the Harvard School of Hard Knocks Music 101, you know?
DJ Booth: [laughs] That was a good way of putting it. What would you say your experiences at TVT taught you, that you took with you as you ventured toward this new partnership with the labels that you described?
Pitbull: Bottom line with the thing with TVT is, I come from an independent mindstate. I’ve been taught by Luther Campbell from 2 Live Crew, who I think was the whole blueprint for the independent game. Everything I learned from him I applied to TVT, so with TVT I just had to hustle harder. It was like goin’ from high school to a university, and now from university to the big leagues. What I learned from TVT was just how to get my music business game a lot tighter. And I never looked at it as a negative thing, like I said before; I just looked at it as an obstacle. But Luke always told me, “No problems, just solutions, chico,” and that’s what kept me moving.
DJ Booth: In a way, it could be a blessing in disguise, because not many artists get that opportunity.
Pitbull: Definitely a blessing in disguise. I don’t like to use the word “I” too much, ‘cause it’s definitely Team Pitbull that has done this. We’ve done this together, and we’ve had a chance to create our own foundation, create our own network, so that, anything we put out, we find avenues and opportunities to continue to grow. All these records I’ve been putting out for years, I have a track record, so you can expect two hit records from Pit yearly. It’s almost like bringin’ a generator to an electrical plant, and that’s basically what we’ve been doin: we’ve been generatin’ for ourselves all these years, and now to be able to plug up to Sony and Polo Grounds, the sky’s the limit, really.
DJ Booth: Well, not to overdo the analogy, but, essentially, all those seeds that you planted all those years and you watered, now they’re finally flowers and they’re blossoming into everything you knew they would be and more.
Pitbull: 150 percent, yes sir.
DJ Booth: And by the way, if you wanna use that analogy in any future interviews, I’m gonna need credit. Is that okay?
Pitbull: No problem! I’ll put together a copyright, we’ll license it from you! [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] Beautiful! I did my research: a revolution is a fundamental change in power, so, Pit, how would you define a Rebelution?
Pitbull: A Rebelution is basically fighting and creating new opportunities daily. Me coming from a family that was involved, quote unquote, in the “revolution” in Cuba, I thought it would just be right. ‘Cause my grandmother fought in the revolutionary war in Cuba, which was called La Sierra Maestra, with Fidel Castro. Not that she’s proud of it, it was definitely a mistake, but she learned from it. [The reason I named the album that] is because, since I’ve been in this industry, it’s been a constant fight; “Oh, he’s white, he’s Cuban.” “He’s tryin’ to do hip-hop and he’s too Spanish, he’s too English.” So you fight all these stereotypes through all these boundaries, and you find a way to tap-dance through all these different genres and cultures through music—that’s what Rebelution is: it’s the true meaning of music being a universal language, constantly fighting and going through different boundaires [in order] for new people to hear the music and be like, “Oh, sh*t! I mess with this Pitbull kid.”
DJ Booth: Would you say that, after this album has been released, you don’t anticipate having to fight that fight anymore?
Pitbull: To be honest with you, it’s almost like they say in relationships: if everything’s right, there’s something wrong. So I always wanna be able to fight, I always wanna be able to go left when they tell me to go right, not because I’m being hard-headed, it’s just me taking a creative stance. I have no problem with constructive criticism, but, at the same time, I have a problem with doin’ the same thing that everybody’s doin’. And that’s the way I’ve found a way to survive in the music game.
DJ Booth: Well, you’ve done more than survive, you’ve flourished. And, speaking of success, your current single, “I Know You Want Me,” has been charting for 17 straight weeks. Your new single, “Hotel Room Service,” was one of the most added records at radio. Do you ever worry about being pigeonholed as an artist, based on your single selections?
Pitbull: No, not at all. I never worry about that, ‘cause they always try to categorize me. “Oh, that’s reggaeton.” “Oh, he’s a Latin rapper.” “Oh, he’s crunk.” “Oh, he’s a Southern rapper,” or, “He’s a club rapper.” As long as they’re listening to the music and they’re talkin’ about it, one way or the other, that means I’m doing something right. And as far as my single selections, over the years, yes, it’s been a very essential part of my survival tactic, but I have no problem being able to jump on records with whoever they think is the rawest rapper in the game or number one or King or whatever they wanna name themselves, to be honest with you. It doesn’t affect me, ‘cause that’s what I come from; I’m comfortable in that zone. But I don’t wanna make hood music, I don’t wanna make street music, I want to make world music, global music, international music.
DJ Booth: Pit, some artists can make music that can simply be played in the club, but others can make music that lives in the club, and I put you in that latter category. What is the recipe for a bona fide, Pitbull club smash?
Pitbull: I think that the reason my records are able to live forever in the club is because I actually like to be in the club. I don’t go to the club to do VIP or get bottles or nothin’—I go to the club, I enjoy the people, I see what the people are vibin’ off, and I see what makes me go crazy in the club also, and that has a lot of influence on what I bring to the table when I’m thinking of making a big club record. When I made the record with the Nightcrawlers, “Horns,” I was in the club, watching women in a dance competition, and I saw how they got when the horns came in, and said, “We gotta use that!” Same thing happened when I remixed “Gasolina” with Lil’ Jon and Noreaga. Daddy Yankee didn’t wanna use that record again, he said, “It’s dead.” I said, “Are you crazy? We’ve gotta use this record!” And that became the biggest reggaetón song in history.
DJ Booth: So when some people are in the club with a bottle in each hand, you have a bottle in one, and in the other you have a notepad and a pen, and you’re takin’ notes.
Pitbull: [laughs] I have no bottle, to be honest with you; I’ll be at the bar. One thing I do have is a lot of women at the club with me—bottles, no, but a lot of women, yes. [laughs]
DJ Booth: Well, that’s a good thing, ‘cause, next time I’m down in Miami, you can share some. How does that sound?
Pitbull: Oh, definitely. I was taught in kindergarten: sharing is caring.
DJ Booth: I couldn’t agree more. Let’s spin off of the name of your current single, “Hotel Room Service.” Last fall, I was in New York for business. I called down to room service at my hotel because there was a desk in my room, but no desk chair. They brought up what looked to be a lawn chair—I’m talkin’ about the kind that you might find in a backyard barbecue. That’s my worst hotel room experience, what’s yours?
Pitbull: That definitely don’t sound right… My worst was actually kinda good, to be honest with you. She came up and I was about to jump in the shower, and she’s like, “Oh my God, it’s Pitbull! I gotta take a picture!” So she got a picture of me in my towel. That was the worst for me, ‘cause it kinda caught me off guard, but it was good for her—she’ll have the memory forever!
DJ Booth: Today, Nielsen released a report that predicts that, by the end of 2011, almost all music purchases will be made digitally only. How do you think that’s gonna impact the future releases of albums as a whole?
Pitbull: To me, I look at the whole digital game—and I’ve been doin’ great for the last year, and independently on the digital side—but I see it like a blessing in disguise. Because these record companies have been getting’ away with highway robbery for so many years, and they fought technology, and they went against technology and went against technology till it bit ‘em in the ass. So now, with the Internet, you’re either five years ahead or you’re five years behind, and the music game is catchin’ up right now. You know, Steve Jobs came to the music industry and pitched them the idea and they kept shootin’ him down and shootin’ him down, and now he makes money off the whole music industry regardless. Which is a minor part of his empire, ‘cause obviously it’s gadgets that make him all of his money. But regardless, he has basically monopolized the music game. As far as for the artist it’s good, ‘cause it’s more of a transparent account that you’re looking at; you can actually see how it’s going, where is it going, how it’s happening. The album may not sell a lot, but you may sell 10 singles that do four million each, so right there you sold 40 million, and that pretty much accounts for selling two, three million albums. So, one way or another it balances out. If you look at somebody like Flo Rida—who I spoke with yesterday as a matter of fact, in New York; we had a show up in Poughkeepsie, and I told Flo Rida, “Right now you’re the future, dog. Everybody’s lookin’ at how you’re movin’ in digital, and you’re settin’ the bar for everybody comin’ behind you, so make sure that you take full advantage of it.”
DJ Booth: With such success in the digital single game, do you think artists will think to themselves, “Let’s just release one successful single after another, and then after maybe four or five, then consider an album?”
Pitbull: It’s funny you say that, ‘cause that’s exactly what I did on this album. Goin’ into Rebelution, I put out “Krazy,” I put out, “I Know You Want Me,” “Blanco” through the movie, and now it’s “Hotel Room Service,” and now is when we’re talking about releasing an album. It’s definitely milking not only the digital game, but the momentum that you need to have has to be a tsunami, in order to catch the attention of a society that suffers from ADD to the tenth power.
DJ Booth: [laughs] That, and there’s so much music out, it’s really hard to pick and choose what is the best.
DJ Booth: When we told everybody you would be joining me inside the Booth for an interview, we got a plethora of questions from our readers. I narrowed down a lengthy list to two. First one is from Dan of Momence, Illinois, and he wrote, “I recently saw footage of your now-famous knockout punch.” He said, “Nice right hook!” but goes, “In all seriousness, how concerned are you about safety at venues when you’re performing?”
Pitbull: I wouldn’t say I’m concerned, I would say I’m cautious. What happened that day was, I was trying to avoid a problem, and that’s why I brought that man on stage: to escort him out, because he was being obnoxious for the first five, eight minutes of the show, so I already knew that was gonna be a problem. When I happened to bring him onstage, he threw money in my face. Now, to every action there’s a reaction, and I just happened to use self-defense, you know? We live by a code down here: don’t talk about it, be about it. And that’s exactly what happened with buddy that day. Which was an unfortunate situation—that’s not the way I intended for it to go—but, hey, he had it coming.
DJ Booth: You know, you’ve toured for many years, and I’m sure you’ve come across a plethora of annoying fans. At what point, though, while you’re performing, is it just too much to simply ignore them?
Pitbull: It’s simply at a point where, when you are taking [away] from the other people’s entertainment, [that] people paid good money to come in and see, that’s when you become a problem, and it has to be addressed. It can be avoided, or it can be addressed.
DJ Booth: I commend you, because, what I was most impressed with—and obviously I only saw the limited amount of footage that was available to me—you just continued your set as if nothing had happened.
Pitbull: That’s the way I see it: nothing happened.
DJ Booth: The second reader question comes from Dante of Dominican Republic. He wrote, “Pitbull, I listen to your music constantly, which serves as motivation. So, what serves as your motivational music?”
Pitbull: My motivational music is any music that helps me escape. There are certain records that take you to euphoria, when you’re partying and havin’ a good time, dancin’ with a couple people. A lot of mambo records, which is where I got the idea for “I Know You Want Me”: from a mambo artist, his name is El Cata, and another one is named Omega. A lot of old-school, freestyled, 2 Live Crew bass music inspires me. But when you take all the music that I’ve grown up around, and the melting pot of that, you’d understand me more, but you’d understand my complexity at the same time.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Well, it’s never good to be an easy person to understand.
DJ Booth: September, the album is set to be released. Give everybody a website, a MySpace page, a Twitter account, so they can find out more about what you have goin’ on.
Pitbull: I don’t Twitter, I cl*tter—nah, I’m just messin’ with ya, but… [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] You do both!
Pitbull: Yes, sir! Go check me out on planetpit.com. And as far as the fans, I always say it because it’s the truth: without them I’m absolutely nothing.
DJ Booth: Thank you so much for taking the time to join me inside the DJ Booth for an interview, and the continued best of luck. It’s always a great time when I get you on the phone.
Pitbull: All right, Z. I appreciate the love, you already know what it is!