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Cuban Music Lesson: Pitbull

Get ready to be schooled, asere. It’s time for a Cuban music lesson! Learn to tell your cha cha cha from your mambo without leaving your couch. Put on your dancing shoes, guayaberas, park your 57 Chevy, light up that Habano, and pay attention.

By Jack Tomas

My wife says that I don’t listen to any music that was made after 1994. That’s fair. As far as Latin music goes, there is nothing like the old school stuff. Starting in the 90’s, salsa all started to sound the same. Just the generic soundtrack at your local Tex-Mex chain restaurant. Then came the abomination that is reggaeton. With all due respect to those of you who like it, I would rather have the hairs on my polongas ripped out one by one than sit in a Miami club blasting reggaeton. Still, there is one reggaeton artist that doesn’t make me want to wretch, and he just happens to be a first generation Cuban-American like me. I’m talking about Pitbull, (the rapper, not the dog).

The experience of growing up in a family of Cuban exiles is a strange one. Unlike other immigrant groups that try and forget the past, Cuba is talked about constantly. You hear the name Fidel Castro almost as much as you hear your own. Because at any moment the family might return to Cuba, (yeah right), the culture is kept fresh in your mind. On the other hand, you are immersed in the American culture around you. That’s the environment that Armando Christian Perez grew up in. He grew up listening to Celia Cruz and Willy Chirino, but he was also into rap and the Miami bass scene. When reggaeton oozed out of the bowels of hell in the late 90’s, it created a Latin infused dance hip hop craze in Miami. Pitbull, as Armando called himself, was a lost kid who had been kicked out of his house for being a drug dealer. In this new music, he found a way out of a life of crime. So, he started rapping. In 2002, he was discovered by the monosyllabic poet laureate, Lil’ John, (yeah!). Pitbull appeared on Lil’ John’s “Kings of Crunk” album, which led to him getting his own record contract. In 2004, he released “M.I.A.M.I” which included the hit song, “Culo”. He rode that ass all the way to the bank.

Since then, Pitbull has become one of the biggest selling Latino artists around. He co-founded the Bad Boy Latino label with Sean Combs (AKA Puff Daddy, AKA P Diddy, AKA Diddy, AKA Mrs. Vanderschlotz). He’s recorded several albums, including 2009’s “Rebelution” that contained the hit song “I know you want me (calle Ocho)”. He just released a new album this year called “Planet Pit”, with the single “Give Me Everything” going to #1. Lindsey Lohan sued Pitbull for talking about her in the song. I guess she needed some money for her “medicine”. I still hate reaggeton, but if more artists were like Pitbull I’d be less inclined to break any more stereos.

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