Bien venido a Miami perhaps, but don’t call Will Smith. Pitbull isn’t much interested in music you can get jiggy to, but this son of Cuban immigrants definitely believes in representing his roots both in terms of cultural heritage and the South Florida hip-hop scene he grew up with. After first coming on the scene nationally vis-a-vis the song “Oye” on the “2 Fast 2 Furious” soundtrack, Pitbull has been working hard on putting together a full length national debut. With a deal from TVT Records and some help from Lil Jon on the album, “M.I.A.M.I. (Money is a Major Issue)” is the result. “Some help” is if anything an understatement, since Jon either appears on or produces eight of the albums sixteen tracks.
This certainly isn’t going to hurt the sales of Pitbull’s music in the public’s eye. Lil Jon is on an incredible winning streak lately, seemingly producing a hit for anyone he hooks up with and turning unknowns from Ciara to Lil Scrappy into instant stars in the process. Naturally a lot of people will assume just from seeing Jon’s name mentioned so prominently on the back cover, even before reading the liner notes inside, that Pitbull is the “next chosen” especially given that the relationship between Jon and TVT Records is tighter than Margaret Cho trying to wear Victoria’s Secret (just kidding C.H.O., we still love you). There are some other impressive guests to be found reading from the backside to boot: Bun B on “Dirty,” Fat Joe joining Lil Jon on “That’s Nasty” and Trick Daddy dropping by to rap on “Melting Pot.”
Though it’s often said you shouldn’t judge a book on the basis of it’s cover, this cover turns out to paint a pretty good picture of the album. As you would expect, songs that feature Jon both in front of and behind the boards have a HELLA crunk sound, such as the “305 Anthem” and the damn near jungle intensity of “Toma.” The songs with the big guests all shine too. Like a good book though, Pitbull’s “M.I.A.M.I.” is more interesting when you read between the lines. It’s the songs where he’s all on his own like “Back Up” that are the most telling about this Cubo-Floridian artist:
“I’m in the club, in the cut, scopin the scene
Cup hand playful, smokin the green
She got her hand on my nuts, what does that mean?
Pointed at her friend, she said they a tag team
Now who said dreams don’t come true?
It’s like I’m dreamin when I come through
I always find somethin to run through
Speak into the mic mami, mic check one two”
I think the it’s clear the influence the South Florida rap scene had on Pitbull’s upbringing, and it’s that freaktastic sexuality is prevalent in his lyricism. The good news is that both the music and the lyrics have evolved since the heyday of Luke Skywalker, which means the beats are more than just big bottomed bass and the rhymes more than just big booty bitches. Lyrically when Pitbull isn’t talking about getting his groove on, he sticks to pretty typical themes for a Southern hip-hop artist – how tough he is, how much he likes to drink and smoke, and how well he can shake off the haters. What seperates Pitbull from the pack (no pun intended) is his ability to flip verbals pretty quickly, which at times gives him a Twista quality and at other times is more reminiscent of Three 6 Mafia.
Even though Pitbull is a newcomer on the scene and has a long way to go to make headway in the rap game, particularly in an industry that has often unfairly overlooked artists from the South and stereotyped Floridians as all being Miami Bass. With his album, Pitbull seeks to redefine “M.I.A.M.I.” in his own image and prove that there’s a whole new sound, which encompasses the same attitude but brings new creativity to the game. It’s a solid freshman effort well worth picking up.