Seeing Pitbull on the cover of Latina suited up and turned into husband material shouldn’t be a surprise. The billboard near the indie-riddled Sunset Junction promoting his upcoming gig in Los Angeles? Well, it’s sponsored by Bud Light; they’ve got deep pockets. What about his verse on Jennifer Lopez’s big dancefloor comeback? Fuck, like Sean Paul is bankable anymore. The aforementioned “On The Floor” and his own “Give Me Everything” holding down 20% of iTunes’ top ten singles list? LMFAO has been there—how hard can it be?
It’s easy to discount the popularity of certain artists at a time when the fences have drawn in tremendously, but at this moment, is any other male artist achieving the ubiquity of Pitbull on a multimedia scale? He’s a part owner of a vodka line. He’s got a legit label. “Give Me Everything,” his Eurohousey single with assists by Ne-Yo and Afrojack, has stubbornly stuck at No. 2 on Billboard‘s Digital Songs chart for weeks now, only being outsold by Adele’s unkillable “Rolling In The Deep,” The WWE celebrated Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s birthday by having Pitbull perform on Raw, which means repping Miami (where the Rock went to college) trumps actually being Latino (Johnson’s of Polynesian descent) in terms of kinship. Or maybe the Rock really likes “Give Me Everything.”
This burst of stardom has probably saved Pitbull from being lumped in with reggaeton’s quick and intense usurpation of hip-hop radio during the mid-’00s. (Granted, I couldn’t quite remember whether he played a role in some of my favorite moments of that movement at first—most of them turned out to be the work of Daddy Yankee.) Yet Planet Pit could very well be the #1 album in the country next week without any sort of larger craze buoying it. How in can an act achieve a respectable degree of success, seemingly go away despite making new music and come back even more popular than ever, especially in the iTunes era?
It’s usually attributable to an uncanny ability to be of the moment, and in that sense, Planet Pit absolutely should be next week’s #1 album. The R&B and pop-rap I tend to encounter on the radio in Los Angeles sounds less like music and more like industry, and Planet Pit embodies that 100%—not in a good or bad way, just specifically “industry” in the L.A. sense of the word, where nobody in the bottle service area seems to have a job but they all have some sort of hustle that’s “blowing up, man.” You see Pitbull getting interviewed about “his artists” and how all of them are “outta here”; he’s mastered the patter of music agents trying to convince you that their baby bands are worth your time because they’ve had a killer run opening for Ben Folds. It’s gregarious as hell, but it’s looking to get over on you.
Although that feeling is pretty much to be expected considering Planet Pit‘s big hit is called “Give Me Everything” and features three other singers of tiered popularity. the album on the whole sounds like it does want everything—the beats are insistent, the synth blurts are loud and free of nuance—even though Pitbull often comes off like the sort of guy who has everything. He sounds like someone for whom getting asses on the dancefloor is the end to justify any means, and he absolutely loves the process—the mere title of “Shake Senora” is indicative enough of an insatiable eagerness to please. combined with a keen knowledge of demographic.
Which is not to say he’s a cipher. In fact, he’s still a great MC—outside the context of strict pop-rap, his flow is nimble and he comes up with underhanded, smart lines (“I’m involved with the music business/ but the funny thing is/ half of these fools don’t know music, don’t know business/ have no business in music, what is this?”). But as Pitbull boasts that he “went from Mr. 305 to Mr. Worldwide,” I also can’t help but think of Planet Pit in relation to that other Miami throne-seeker who people feel conditioned to hate—it’s cocky, it’s manufactured, it’s too reliant on industry pal-downs, ugh, it’s inorganic. Then again, it’s perfectly of a moment where “All I Do Is Win” is the must-have self-fulfilling prophecy, and Planet Pit sounds like it’s winning. And even if it isn’t, well, it all but tells you to go ahead and groan—like that other Miami resident noted recently, you’ll still have your same personal problems tomorrow.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 22, 2011