MIAMI — The world-famous South Beach strip — Miami, Florida, U.S.A.! Ocean Drive to be exact. When you think about the gorgeousness of the city, Ocean Drive is everything you imagine it to be. Celebrities, hot chicks, the best food, exotic drinks, music, partying, guys with guns (guns as in muscles, not firearms — although they can get it poppin' down there) and traffic-stopping cars (although traffic moves at a snail's pace on Ocean, but you get the point).
"We're on Ocean Drive, South Beach," [artist id="1678002"]Pitbull[/artist] said as he drove his pristine Benz, giving MTV News a tour of his city. "Right there is Versace's mansion, where he officially got [murdered], poor guy," he said, pointing to a home so huge, they turned it into a hotel. "Not the brightest side of South Beach .
"Being from the crib, being from Miami, this is like Hollywood for us. That's why we always say, 'the other side of the bridge,' " continued Pit, who grew up in much more meager surroundings. "Ocean Drive can show you how broke you really are at certain points. This is for the big boys."
As a teen, Pit witnessed his hometown really become a darling of the music industry, with artists and bigwig execs heading down during Memorial Day weekend.
"It was definitely a place you could get your music out," Pit said, driving past South Beach Studios, where he worked with producer Pharrell Williams to record some of the songs that were featured in "Fast & Furious." And the tradition continues. "You could tell what record would be the next big record. It would officially get broken during Memorial Day weekend. All the record executives would be down here. The music business is different now. The money they was making then! The money they were spending then. You'd see Bentleys, helicopters, videos, women. It was crazy. You definitely might feed into the facade. I was 17 when all that happened. I'm 28 now."
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Pit said he would have loved to get discovered by one of the hot labels at the time, but it just wasn't his destiny. He did, however, grab the attention of Murder Inc.'s CEO.
"I definitely wanted to be a part of Roc-A-Fella or Murder Inc. or Ruff Ryders. I had got into a battle with Drag-On during Super Bowl weekend on a [artist id="1325"]DMX[/artist] video shoot. That's when I met Irv Gotti. Irv came down Memorial Day weekend. I met with him a few times, but at the time I obviously wasn't ready for it. Not talent-wise, definitely not business-wise. I learned a whole lot from it."
The most valuable lesson Gotti dropped on him was to concentrate less on kicking rhymes off the dome and start actually writing records. "Freestyling don't make money," I.G. told him. Pit listened and obviously hasn't had any trouble making hit records for the past half a decade. His music has been embraced on an international stage.
Pit, whose parents are Cuban, got his break under the wing of Luther Campbell, but developed his style by studying all the genres of music that hit his city, from freestyle to bass and then eventually hip-hop. He also has been influenced by music from other cultures, such as Haitian and Puerto Rican.
"Right here, this used to be Luke Records," he said, passing an old building. "Right here on 12th, between 20th and Collins. Now I guess it's a furniture store. I used to hang out in that alley. I would pull up with a Cadillac Seville I bought for $400."
His Benz cost quite a bit more than that. Selling records independently the last five years on TVT Records worked out well for the most part — although he has some real horror stories of business gone wrong. But Pit is excited to embark on the next phase of his career.
"This is the beginning of Pitbull," he said. "This is my chance. I'm in the major league now. I've cut a deal, partnered up with a major label, which is Sony through Polo Grounds/ Mr. 305 Inc. I've also partnered up with Sony Latin for a deal [for an album] in Spanish. I'm no longer an artist, I'm a business partner. I'm in business with these folks. I've always been independent, but I've created this foundation and fanbase."
Pit's new album is called Rebelution and drops sometime in late summer or early fall.
"Now I'm working with producers," he said with a smile. "I get a chance to work with Jim Jonsin. Obviously I'm gonna be in with Lil Jon the Diaz Brothers, the Neptunes, Play-N-Skillz. The list goes on. I can create this music where I can make [the album like a] Now! hits record. I'm not just throwing a record out there to make sure we stay relevant in the game like I was doing on TVT. I'm excited. I finally get a chance to hit one out the park. I'mma make sure it's a grand slam. This is the one right here. It's gonna be that one with God's help, obviously."