Born Jan. 15, 1981 in Miami, FL, the Cuban-American Armando Christian Pérez grew up in a tumultuous environment, spending time with a foster family in Roswell, GA and being kicked out of the house at age 16 when he became a drug dealer like his father. He managed to graduate from Miami Coral Park High School, however, and focused on his rap career, choosing the stage name "Pitbull" to honor the breed's fearsome reputation and tenacity. Indeed, the rapper's persistence paid off, and he was signed to Luther Campbell's Luke Records in 2001. The hardworking Pitbull placed the song "Oye" on the "2 Fast 2 Furious" (2003) soundtrack, recorded a flood of mix tapes, and impressed fellow rapper Lil Jon so much that he was given a guest spot on the latter's 2002 album, Kings of Crunk.
Pitbull's debut album, 2004's M.I.A.M.I. (Money is a Major Issue), and its singles "Culo," "Dammit Man," "Back Up" and a pair of songs featuring Lil Jon, "Toma" and "That's Nasty," served as his calling card into the mainstream industry. After a stint on the Anger Management tour, Pitbull guested on songs by the Ying Yang Twins and Twista and released a remix album, Money is Still a Major Issue. A previously unreleased album he had recorded in 2001, Welcome to the 305, caused a major lawsuit when Pitbull's current label, TVT Records, and previous label, Slip-N-Slide Records, battled over the legal right to release the old material. When TVT Records lost and was ordered to pay Slip-N-Slide $9.1 million dollars, it eventually bankrupted the label.
Despite the imminent self-destruction of the record label, Pitbull continued to guest on albums, tour and record new music. Sean Combs tapped him to head an imprint on the former's Bad Boy label, Bad Boy Latino, and TVT and Bad Boy Latino distributed Pitbull's next album, 2006's El Mariel, dedicated to his father, who had died that year. His unmistakably catchy sound, which managed to blend reggaeton, gangsta rap and bilingual lyrics, began to garner him mainstream attention as one of the most prominent up-and-coming Latin recording artists, and he not only released 2007's The Boatlift, but also began hosting a variety show, "Pitbull's La Esquina" (mun2, 2007-08). Although he was arrested for drunk driving at the end of 2007, the rapper was later acquitted.
When Pitbull's fourth album, 2009's Rebelution, dropped, TVT Records had gone out of business and so he had switched to Ultra Records instead, referencing the incident in the album's breakthrough single, "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)," which went to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped multiple charts around the world. Featuring Pitbull's appealingly masculine swagger and infectious Spanglish, the song became one of the year's biggest hits and helped him earn his own label on Sony Music, Mr. 305 Inc. A YouTube video of Pitbull apparently punching a rowdy fan during a Colorado concert went viral, adding to his mystique, and he placed a song, "Blanco," on the "Fast & Furious" (2009) soundtrack.
As his mainstream success began to grow, Pitbull was presented with the key to the city of Miami in 2009, appeared on the Spanish version of the Haiti relief remake of the single "We Are the World," and guested on Usher's massive hit, "DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love." Pitbull's first full-length Spanish-language album, Armando, dropped the following year, but scored another huge mainstream American hit with a guest spot on the Enrique Iglesias hit "I Like It." Suddenly the most in-demand musical guest in the industry, Pitbull collaborated with T-Pain on "Hey Baby (Drop it to the Floor)" and Jennifer Lopez on "On the Floor" as well as releasing his follow-up album, 2011's Planet Pit. The set's second single, "Give Me Everything," which also featured Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer, became his first Billboard Hot 100 chart-topper.
One of the most ubiquitous songs of the year, "Give Me Everything" drew some rather colorful controversy when Lindsay Lohan announced she was suing Pitbull for referencing her name in a line that ended " locked up like Lindsay Lohan." He scored another hit with "International Love," featuring Chris Brown, and saw it, like many of his previous singles, go platinum or gold worldwide. Frequently referring to himself in his songs as "Mr. Worldwide" and "Mr. 305" - among a slew of nicknames - Pitbull was nominated for a People's Choice Award for Favorite Hip-Hop Artist and earned a lucrative slate of endorsements, including Kodak, Dr. Pepper and Voli Vodka. More popular than ever, he announced that his seventh studio album, Global Warming, was released in the summer of 2012.
By Jonathan Riggs
|Signed with Luther Campbell's Luke Records|
|Made recording debut with featured vocals on the Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz album Kings of Crunk|
|Released debut album M.I.A.M.I. with the lead single "Culo," produced by Lil Jon and the Diaz Brothers|
|Gained wider airplay and recognition for third album The Boatlift|
|Hosted his own variety show "La esquina" on mun2 cable network|
|Released debut Spanish-language album Armando|
|Collaborated with Jennifer Lopez on her hit single "On the Floor"|
|Debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 200 with sixth studio album Planet Pit|