What have you been up to lately?
The same shit, dog, other than having no label! I’ve been working hard and putting out records and staying on the road.
Are you surprised that “Krazy” with Lil’ Jon is doing as well as it is?
Not at all. It has a different sound to it and it’s something that’s addicting, almost. When I cut that record I knew it was going to be a big record for me. I’m independent cat dealing with a company called The Orchard and for it to be doing what it is in the fourth quarter with all these major labels throwing out their big artists, that’s a great thing. The single is still fighting.
The Orchard does well digitally but they don’t have a huge name like a Def Jam. Why did you want to mess with them?
That was my get out of jail card from TVT. They’re working with us and Team Pitbull. They gave us a budget. They gave me the money and I came up with “Krazy.” They really don’t do much but let you come up with your own thing and that’s what I like about them.
Would you rather have less of a budget and more creative control or would you rather be in a major situation with the pressure to make huge commercial singles?
One thing about the situation I was in with TVT, I was always able to do what I wanted to do but a lot of the big records that I wanted wouldn’t get cleared. That was the biggest problem I had with TVT, not with the people I worked with. Now I actually have a chance to work with guys that I have known for years that I didn’t get to work with at TVT. I do love the freedom and I do love the fact that I’m in control of my own destiny and it’s not just some major label exec’s telling me what to do with my music and my movement. But the good thing is that if I continue to build my force and my strength independently, I’ll be able to walk into any major label deal that I want. It’s pretty much already on the table now. I just have to figure out where I want to go.
What do you need from a label this time around?
What I never had. I never had the chance to really work with other artists. I never had the chance to really take it to that next level. With a major label, you get that machine behind you and we have our own machine so if we apply our team to their team, the opportunities are endless.
At this point in your career, you’ve had a lot of successful singles and sold a lot of albums. What do you have left to accomplish?
On this go around, what I feel I haven’t accomplished is really earning the respect of the music community. Other than making hits, I don’t think people really understand the material behind what I do and what I can bring to the table. I’ve been kind of letting the game breathe for four or five years and now is my chance where I’m out of that. I’m the animal out of the cage and that’s really what I intend to accomplish. I can make records that fans are not looking for from a Pitbull. I have a crazy set of records for this new album and I’ll probably come out with a club record and I’ll have that smash.
I’ve been putting out mixtapes since I got a deal, since before I got the deal, honestly. I was always putting out mixtape after mixtape and the last one is Free Agent with DJ Noodles and DJ Buddha. I think it got 75,000 downloads when I put it out there. There are a lot of tracks that you wouldn’t expect to come from me. There are things I do and things I don’t do. You hear my songs in the club. The beautiful thing is you can’t go to a club and not hear a 15 minute set of Pitbull. (laughs) Believe me, I wouldn’t change that for the world because the clubs is what kept me alive, especially during the TVT times. I know I have a lot more to offer musically and that’s what I’m trying to do.
From listening to your mixtapes, even before your first hit “Culo” came out, the thing that struck me about your mixtapes is you really got lyrical and then your albums were more radio-oriented. How do you balance those two very different types of songs?
This album is the chance that I’m going to be able to give them that mixtape material on that next level, which I’ve been waiting to do for years. The reason why I couldn’t do it the other day was because of my TVT situation. It was more of a survival tactic. I knew I had to do what I had to do when I was going through a lot that with the label at the time. It was more of a strategic move than anything else and to me, it worked out beautifully because it allowed me to sneak through the back door. “Don’t worry about Chico.” I created my own lane and my own movement and thanks to the grind and thanks to making those types of records, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to stop making them records because those records are a part of me. I’m from Miami! (laughs) We’re no stranger to that. But this album is honestly going to have some big records.
Do you get respect from fans for being a lyricist?
I mean, it all depends. You have those who are your true, true fans and they know what you can do on a track and then you have those who love you for your club music. It’s more the women that are in love with those club records. I don’t have a problem with that neither. But for me, half of these cats don’t even know much less how to spell “street,” much less be in the streets. People in Miami respect me and I respect everybody because we really run around our city the way we talk about it. If anybody wants to come down to Miami and hang out, I know where to take them and all the spots. I’ve been to other cities and the cats can’t even get into their own clubs in their own cities!
What’s the biggest lesson that you learned from messing with TVT?
TVT, I took it as my school of hard knocks, Music 101, my Harvard University, as far as the music industry. What I took from it was that it just goes to show you that one person can really, I don’t want to say fuck up your career because he could have fucked up a lot of other people’s careers, but to have control over your career. These artists are coming in with these contracts and you have to be very careful. I have to make my next situation, if not bulletproof, as close to bulletproof as I can possibly get it.
Right now I got people up in the air. I have major, major companies but I wouldn’t want to let that out until it’s official.
Getting back to “Krazy,” you featured Lil’ Jon on it, who has been on hiatus lately. Where has he been?
Lil’ Jon strategically went on hiatus. The same thing that went on with me over there went on with him. He didn’t want to make them anymore money so he didn’t make any new music. Now he has a major machine behind him and our strategic moves and our survival tactics were to stay relevant. A cat from France actually produced it, Jon just co-produced it. It was all about survival of the fittest.
When will we see another Pitbull album?
The next album will probably be out around the summertime. I just started working on it. I just started working with all the producers on it like Mr. Collipark and Jim Jonsin and everybody else.
You’ve done a lot of good work with DJ Noodles. Why do you two work so well together?
With Noodles, the way he puts together mixtapes and the way he mixes accapellas and puts them on different beats, shit like that, he’s really talented. Not only that, he’s a great producer too. Some of his beats are going to be on my next album. Our chemistry just clicked musically because we don’t hang out together personally. I’m in Miami and on the road all the time but we just clicked. I just think he’s very talented. He knows how to put together mixtapes. He’s the Scorsese of Mixtapes! That sounds good.
What kind of charity work have you been involved in lately?
I’m putting together a toy drive for mid-December. I have my own foundation called Imaginate Foundation, which is all about helping first generation and second generation immigrants and trying to get scholarships. I’m always involved in charity work and if it’s not mine I go and help out somebody else’s. I work with Trick Loves the Kids. Anything to really help the community I’m doing. I know what it means not to have and I’m truly blessed to have everything I do. I still work hard for what I got and I like helping people out who don’t have.
I don’t get a lot of press releases from you about your charity work like a lot of artists. How important is it to not have video cameras there every time you do something?
If they’re there they’re there, but it’s not about them. It’s about the people and helping them. To me, when you change people’s lives and you meet them and hug them and give them an autograph and a picture, that shit means more than these cameras because it’s not about the media. It’s about the people.
When you have young kids come up to you and tell you that they want to be a rapper, what do you tell them?
A lot of them, I ask them if they love music because I do it because I love music and that’s the only way I’ve been able to survive. I’m not out here trying to be like everybody else and doing this monkey see, monkey do shit. If you’re trying to be a rapper to live that lifestyle, I tell them not to let the rappers fool them. Most of them are broke. The majority of them are and they don’t know how to invest or to do any of that. If that’s what you want to be, hey, more power to you. Would I advise you to do that? No. That’s not a life you want to get into. I try to open the kids’ eyes so they can see what it is. The houses, the cars, the chains, don’t let them fool you! (laughs) It’s all a façade. Some kids get it, some kids don’t care. They still want to be rappers.
What did you think about Daddy Yankee endorsing John McCain and speaking at one of his rallies?
Wrong decision. To me, it’s not that Yankee’s a bad guy. It’s nothing like that. I think it was the wrong people around him telling him what to do. I don’t know if that guy even knows what the fuck politics are in the first place. I don’t know if he can have a political conversation. But when you’re standing behind John McCain in these times that we’re in, fuck me! I think it was a publicity stunt that went wrong. He did get his name back out there but for all the wrong reasons. I think it was definitely the wrong decision.
I think that move shocked a lot of people.
It was something stupid! (laughs) I don’t understand a person that comes from nothing and knows what it means to have nothing, living in Puerto Rico, is going to stand behind McCain and say he vouches for his immigration laws. Dog, you’re from Puerto Rico. You don’t even need a passport to come to the United States. What are you talking about? Come on! (laughs) It was entertaining.
What amazed you most about this year’s Presidential election?
It showed the power of hip-hop and how it reaches the youth. I think the Bush Administration was a blessing in disguise because they fucked up the country so bad that people had no choice but to pay attention and make a change. Someone like Barack Obama came up and when I kept watching Barack Obama speak, I was like, ‘Damn, this motherfucker is sharp.’ What I liked about Barack Obama is that he was honest about shit. This motherfucker wasn’t trying to be perfect and he wasn’t saying that he was going to change it all in the first year but he was going to try. Things about Barack Obama were just genuine. I feel like when people were tuning in, they could see somebody that they could relate to. I think Barack Obama might fuck around and be the best President in the United States of America because the way they he has the public behind him and the way he’s motivated and how he has America behind him and how he bridges gaps in race differences and age differences, it’s great. I think the Bush Administration is a blessing in disguise because it made people open their eyes and pay attention.
There’s been some progress lately in the Cuban embargo. DO you think that can be lifted under Obama?
I don’t know, man. I really don’t know to be honest with you. Cuba is a real touchy subject. They need it though. I’ll tell you that much. After all these hurricanes hit Cuba…I just don’t know if it’s really going to uphold. My whole thing is that Castro has been dead for three years ever since he gave up his power. It’s not official but a lot of us believe that he’s been dead. With Raul, I haven’t seen him act out yet. I don’t know how to judge him so I really can’t give you a straight answer on that. Do I hope they do? Yes. Do I have a straight answer? No.