WORDS Reynaldo Herrera, Jr.
PHOTOGRAPHY Howard Huang
What would 2004 have been without the club-banging anthem Culo? A lot less fun, it’s safe to say. Primarily because there would have been one less reason to grip, grab, and grind those beautiful buttocks in front of you on the dance floor. Yet, despite the fact that much of Pitbull’s notoriety is attributed to the effect that Culo had on dancefloors worldwide, his ability to capitalize on this hit proves that he is both a talented artist and a shrewd businessman. As his debut album M.I.A.M.I. suggests, money is a major issue for the up-and-coming rapper. But it’s no less important to him than representing Latinos well and pumping up the Latin vibe within the rap world.
Aside from being Latino what do you feel separates you from all the other MCs?
What I feel separates me, lo que me empuja a mi…you know, what pushes me, is that I have a big purpose. I have a goal: To make the Latino visible. This revolution that is finally happening is what drives me everyday. Basically lo que me separa a mi is that I have a very large goal which is to let people know that Latins, in general, are very, very talented in the hip hop world, that we have a lot to offer. There’s a lot to learn from us. We have a lot of cultura to show the world.
Not all Latino rappers seem as interested in showing their Latin roots or using Latin sounds in their music. How do you feel about that?
Everybody is different. I’m not even going to start…I mean this is an art you know everybody has their style. I really can’t tell you what Latinos should be doing out there. No matter what if they are Latin and they are being exposed then it’s a good thing. People are actually focusing on the Latino community now. Which I think at the end of the day is the best thing. Whether they want to rap in a certain way, have a certain story line, or not talk about certain issues, that’s their call. Todo mundo tiene su sabor diferente.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now and what do you feel is necessary to survive the test of time?
Trabajar bien duro. Make sure you’re pushing one hundred fifty percent, all day, twenty-four hours a day. At the end of the day I’m a businessman. I’m not a rapper. Ten years from now there’s going to be a lot of things my friend.
Do you ever feel that your music reinforces any stereotypes about Latinos?
There’s always going to be stereotypes. We are what we are. We’re Latin. We’re hot-blooded. We love women. We love to have a good time. But we are also very smart businessmen. We’ve come a long way in a short time. Actions speak louder than words, so at the end of the day I’m not really too worried about stereotyping.
A lot of your music is great party music…
I like to have a good time. That’s what my music is about. I like to force the issues when they need to be forced, BUT you always got to set the party off.
Latino rappers have made more and more of a name for themselves in the hip hop world. Do you still find some resistance out there from people who don’t give the same amount of respect to rappers that are Latinos?
People are realizing now our importance. They’re seeing that there’s a big appetite out there for the Latin thing. More respect is being paid to it. But yeah there’s still some resistance, but nothing that ever set me back or hit me in an emotional spot, ‘cause at the end of the day this is business, and there is no emotion to business. So I pretty much just go out there with guns blazing. Pa delante, and just keep pushing.
Some Latinos in other parts of the country see Cuban Americans in Miami as maybe being down there in their own little cocoon-perhaps because they’re more politically conservative. Is this accurate?
I really don’t think there’s too much fact to that. And if there is, remember in every cocoon there’s a beautiful butterfly. This is a beautiful city, there’s a beautiful cultura, and Cubans have a lot to offer, just like every Latin race has a lot to offer.
So you don’t see Cubans as being that different from other Latinos?
In general everyone is pretty much the same. It’s just every country has its own little personal thing. But Latins in general are pretty much similar. They’ll just eat a different plate. Or they’ll call frijoles negros- abichuelas. It’s little things, nothing major. In the end of the day we all understand each other. And if we educate the rest of the world they’ll understand it to. Because really there’s nothing that separates all the races. It’s just that we haven’t sat down and learned about each other.
How’s your fan support in other cities, as compared to your hometown of Miami?
I combine my cultura with where I’m from and where I was born. And it’s big porridge that I got going on. People love it down here in Miami. When I go to L.A. they show nothing but love. When I go to New York it’s a lot of love.
Are there any things or people as far as your Cuban heritage that inspire you?
Jose Marti. When I was little my father would recite a lot of his poetry to me. That’s someone from my heritage that gave me the emotion, his poetry gives me goosebumps. There’s also singers like Celia Cruz, Willy Chirino that inspire me.
Your hit “Culo,” was there a particular culo that inspired that song?
If you’ve ever been to Miami then you’ll know exactly what inspired me. But there’s so much beautiful culo here that it’d be hard to pick one. The sexiness of a woman, the wave of her body all inspire me. We have women from all over the world and especially from South America, so yeah there’s a lot of inspiration down here.
So is it safe to say that you are more of an ass man than a breast man?
When people talk about rap they often break it down between West Coast versus East Coast. Where does the Miami sound fit into this?
It’s all about the Dirty South.
Would you say the Dirty South sound is closer to the West or East Coast sound?
Well neither of those. Miami has its own sound. We’re putting the spotlight on it now. A lot of people don’t really know that Miami has its own sound, and that sound is the Dirty South. It’s got its own history. We’re at the bottom of the map. We’re even farther than the bottom. We’re in the corner a little bit. We’re swimming to the islands. So you got Caribbean flavors coming, you got Latin flavors coming. That’s where it gets its flavor, so you can’t categorize it as West Coast or East Coast because it’s not. It’s got its own look, own personality, its own life.
Speaking about East Coast and West Coast, how do you feel about the whole rivalry and the violence that surrounds it?
Really, I’m not living it. It’s not me. I think music is made for people to enjoy. Music is free. Music is for you to put on and have a good time, to sit back with your girl and enjoy. Or sit with your homeboys in the car and drive. When you separate it or try to keep things to a certain side you’re doing nothing but holding people down. You’re not letting people enjoy it properly. People should be collaborating everywhere. Different flavors and different sides should be getting together and combining the styles. I don’t think you should segregate anything like that.
Do you have a favorite MC?
I have a couple. Different people inspire me for different situations. You got your old Miami base. You got your Jay Z. You got your Nas. It depends if you want to get lyrical or you just want to have good fun. If you combine all that I think you have great music. So I get my inspiration from different sources.
Do you ever feel any restrictions from your label in terms of what you can express in your rhymes?
Thank God that I’ve been blessed and they let me basically do what I got to do and have a good time with it and make my music happen. So really I haven’t felt any restrictions in any way. I really have no complaints on that, so no!
What are your words of advice for all Latinos out there?
Find something that you love and try to succeed in it. Then when you get there and you think you’ve succeeded, keep trying, and never stop. Work harder than the average guy, and then when you think you are working really hard, work even harder. Because in this life, there is no time for sleep. Esta vida es una vida dura, so you got to put on the shoes and you got to tie the laces tight.