If you ask most outsiders about the origins of 'Crunk', they usually point to Atlanta, thanks to the pioneering efforts of artists like 'Lil Jon' and 'DJ Smurf'. Close, says up and coming Southern rapper Pitbull, but no dice. Crunk really started down at the bottom.
"Crunk really got started in Miami, with bass music," he said. "Crunk ain’t nothin’ but bass music slowed down. And bass music got started here in Miami, with 'Luke', 'Poison Clan', people like that. Miami is the New York of the South. And even after all the success we still get slept on, but that’s about to change."
And Pitbull is at the forefront of that change, rolling with the Crunk movement’s premier label - TVT Records - home to super producer/artist/impresario 'Lil Jon', as well as zany Dirty South duo 'Ying Yang Twins', who, between the two of them, have dominated the airwaves over the past two years. Pitbull, is on the way to following-up their success with his debut, M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is a Major Issue). The 23-year-old Cuban-American verbalist has more hardcore lyrics, diverse cultural influences and freestyle skills than most artists would not know what to do with. With that much in his corner, success is a given.
Part of that comes from his upbringing, not to mention his surroundings. Miami’s cultural landscape is one of the most cosmopolitan in the world and Pitbull draws on it’s rich environment for inspiration. "I’ve lived all around this place," he said. "That’s one thing people don’t realize about Miami -- we have all kinds of people down here. I have lived around people from both here and overseas. So early on I learned to appreciate different types of music."
Pitbull’s nickname belies the hunger and drive that he brings to his profession - making it to the top is more than just a goal; its an obsession.
Despite his relatively tender age living in Miami has given Pitbull as much life experience as someone twice his age. He got his culture early, almost before he even discovered Hip-Hop. His parents, both first generation Cuban immigrants had him memorize the poems of legendary Cuban poet, Jose Martí. This ritual instilled in him an early appreciation for the power of language, as well as the importance of his Cuban roots and looking beyond his own experience for inspiration.
While a lot of 'Sunshine State' (Miami) rappers focus their hip-hop attentions strictly below the Mason-Dixon line, the teenage Pitbull’s wide interests led him to classics like Nas "Illmatic" and G-Funk blueprints like "The Chronic" and "Doggystyle." Soon he was developing the freestyle skills that would later earn him fame, flooding the Miami streets with mixtapes (like his latest, "Unleashed Volume 3").
After missing connections with Irv Gotti - a chance meeting brought them into the same studio, but the planned recording session never happened - Pitbull turned to home base for his entry in the game. In the late 90s, he was tabbed by bass music legend Luke to flow over his hit single "Lollipop". " I am grateful for him, not just because "Lollipop" did mad business all through the south,” Pitbull says. “But because he helped me learn the ropes of the business."
Pitbull’s next stop was with the producing/management team of the Diaz brothers, which led to a working relationship with Lil Jon, and a freestyle slot on Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz’ double platinum album, Kings of Crunk. Both relationships culminated with co-production of Pitbull’s debut single “Culo”, which is heating up the charts throughout Florida and the South.
On the eve of his debut, Pitbull explains why he signed with TVT Records, “They let me know I could have my hand in the pot. That’s a good feeling, and it lets me know I’m going to have a long career in this game.” [source: TVT Records record label]