From the beginning, he rapped bilingually, and recorded with Latin and Caribbean artists, asserting his identity in a hip-hop landscape then generally skeptical of Latino rappers (especially those who weren't from the Bronx). At the height of crunk, he was post-regional when hip-hop was still fiercely devoted to regionalism; early on, he recorded with Houston's Bun B and Miami's Trick Daddy, Kingston's Vybz Kartel and San Juan's Daddy Yankee. He was Mr. Worldwide before he started telling us so.


Though Pitbull started working with radio-dominator Dr. Luke as early as 2009 (on "Girls," featuring the then-burgeoning Ke$ha), it wasn't until 2011's Planet Pit that the Cuban-American rapper exploded into the consciousness of the pop charts and, by extension, white people. The album's second single, "Give Me Everything," was Pitbull's first-ever Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper—with its bottle-service house gloss and hands-in-the-air hooks from Ne-Yo and Nayer, the single coincided with pop and R&B ramming full-speed into EDM, just then revealing itself as one of the American music industry's most lucrative genres.

"Give Me Everything" was the first collaboration between Pitbull and Afrojack, the Dutch house producer and DJ who, that year, was experiencing a seemingly unending ascent as a global force, and whose success with sonic excess shifted pop music as a whole. It's this Euro-nowhere sound that, I suspect, fuels much of the Pitbull hateration, but that same sound has propelled him to the ranks of global superstardom. It's his central anomaly: He is both loved and despised because he's an amicable party-cheerleader with an easy sexuality whose calls to ass-shaking are forever lighthearted. This persona is why he was chosen to host the 2013 American Music Awards, and why his twerk-lesson interlude was both family-friendly and historically reverent. When was the last time you heard anyone invoke the "Tootsee Roll" or "Doo Doo Brown" on network television?


He's consistently been a fan of music, as well, and his curiosity has informed his own work; in 2012 and 2013 alone, he featured musicians as broad-ranging as Baltimore club pioneer DJ Class, Congalese R&B vocalist Mohombi, and L.A. trap producer RL Grime. In 2006, Pitbull freestyled on Lethal Bizzle's "Forward Riddim," becoming the first prominent U.S. artist to engage with grime, a British genre that still stumps many Americans; consequently, "Forward Riddim" was arguably the first grime track to be played on U.S. mainstream radio after Hot 97's Funkmaster Flex dropped it in his regular Friday night set. In 2009, after Sensato's dirty single "Watagatapitusberry" was blowing up the Latin charts and inspiring Dominican-American teenagers, Pitbull and Lil Jon put down an official remix, garnering a larger fanbase for Sensato, who soon accepted Pit as a mentor and label head. Same goes for a slew of Latino artists, including Panamanian singer Fito Blanko, Dominican merenguero El Cata, and Alexis y Fido, huge reggaeton artists from Puerto Rico.

While some of his more recent music might seem untenable—or is that untenably catchy?—in its kowtowing to big Vegas and Miami clubs like Tao and Liv, Pitbull's domination of the Latin and club charts has also enabled a slew of lesser-known musicians to drop music in his name, almost all of whom are either from Latin America or American-born Latinos. This is huge in a world that often still ignores Latin and Spanish-language music unless it's somehow marketable to non-Latinos, a world where an American-born Dominican icon like Romeo Santos can sell out two nights at Yankee Stadium but had to score features from Drake and Nicki Minaj before many English-speaking publications would even notice. However strongly some of us might feel about Afrojack and other Euro-EDM producers having ruined Pitbull's music with their hammy fists, it does not take away from the fact that he's a crossover artist who still raps in Spanglish, who constantly shouts out Latinos, and who will wear an admittedly ill-fitting pair of white capri pants to the World Cup opening, repping his club hermanos Miami-wide.


There's a fairly popular genre in Brazil called tecnobrega, which translates to "cheesy techno." It consists mostly of kitschy tracks from the '80s remixed or reworked into dance-floor bangers, a strain of earnest nostalgia quite common in certain parts of Latin America, even in the hallowed clubs of NYC. Viewed through this lens, Pitbull is simply interpreting a certain tradition and blowing it up large, with fireworks. As an Americanized purveyor of cheesy techno, maybe he's closer to Brazil than anyone realizes. At the very least, even if you hate his pants (or his taste in beer), his music deserves your respect.

Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images.

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