How "Talentless" Rapper Pitbull Achieved So Much Success
Rapper and producer Pitbull (Armando Christian Pérez) has managed to have a hugely successful career and has outlasted many other acts heavily focused on making club music. This despite heavy criticism from music fans and media outlets, who claim that:
- He isn't particularly talented.
- He can't sing.
- He is a terrible rapper (Gentleman's Quarterly ranked him as the 9th worst rapper of all time).
- He has shallow lyrical content.
- He has an arrogant and boastful attitude.
- He lacks popstar good looks.
So, how has Pitbull become one of the biggest stars in the world, earning the moniker Mr. Worldwide, and building a musical empire that includes his own record label? Being a featured artist on other people's songs or having other artists featured on his albums seems to be a big part of the answer.
How Did Pitbull Become so Successful Despite Being Talentless?
Pitbull has been a featured artist on other people's songs or has had other artists featured on his albums, both moves helping to boost his profile and notoriety. All of his hit songs have been collaborations with other famous artists.
Pitbull's First Albums
- Pitbull's first album M.I.A.M.I., released in 2004, peaked at #14 on the Billboard 200 album chart and didn't produce any major hits. This was a modest accomplishment, but nothing in comparison to the chart success he would later achieve.
- At this time, he did become popular on the Miami Latin music scene despite some criticism even then of his lyrics and poor flow (flow is how someone sounds when they rap). He was known well enough that he was asked to co-found a record label Bad Boy Latino with Sean Combs (AKA Puff Daddy/P. Diddy). Combs wanted to expand his already-existing Bad Boy label into the Latin hip-hop and pop market. Pitbull was brought on board to help find new acts for the label. He released his next two albums under Bad Boy Latino.
- His second album El Mariel peaked at #17 on the Billboard 200 and only sold about 190,000 copies. Again, this is all relative as that is still a substantial amount of units sold, but the record did not make him into a global superstar.
- His third album The Boatlift did worse, debuting at #50.
- His fourth album, Rebelution, was the first to be released through a major label, Polo Grounds Music, which is a division of RCA. This was when Pitbull became known to fans of pop and club music. It's the first album that makes heavy use of featured artists, with guest appearances from the likes of Akon, B.o.B, Ke$ha, Avery Storm, Nayer, Lil Jon, Nicole Scherzinger, and others. The album debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 and sold 250,000 copies in the United States alone. However, it was his next series of releases that pushed him into the stratosphere of pop music as he became Mr. Worldwide.
In 2011, he was featured on the Jennifer Lopez song "On the Floor." The song was a massive worldwide hit peaking at #1 in many countries and reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. This gave major international exposure to Pitbull, increasing his profile substantially. The first single from his 5th album Planet Pit was a collaboration with rapper T-Pain in the form of "Hey Baby (Drop It to the Floor)." The song was a decent hit but the follow-up "Give Me Everything," was massive. The song featured Ne-Yo, Nayer and Dutch DJ Afrojack and became Pitbull's first song to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Pitbull named his 6th album Global Warming because according to ABC News Radio:
"It reflects the fact that, much like the phenomenon of global warming, he's been around for a while but all of a sudden, people are paying attention."
"Get It Started" featuring Shakira didn't do too well but the 3rd single "Feel This Moment" featuring Christina Aguilera was a top 10 hit around the world. He also featured on albums by Priyanka Chopra, Flo Rida, and Jason Derulo. He did a re-release of the album entitled Global Warming: Meltdown with five new tracks all of which had featured artists collaborating with Pitbull. The lead single from the re-release "Timber" featuring Kesha became Pitbull's biggest selling single, with over 12.6 million in track sales since its release in 2013. It was his second Billboard Hot 100 #1 and his first #1 on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs (HDS) chart.
Criticism of Pitbull
Pitbull is often criticized for using other people's talents or star power to further his own career because he lacks talent of his own. "Timber" is one example of this.
- The harmonica mixed with electronic instrumentation was developed by producer Dr. Luke's production company and was the creation of two of his underlings Sermstyle and Cirkut.
- Pitbull heard the instrumental and wanted it because it was folktronica like the song "Wake Me Up" by Avicii, which was a massive hit at the time. He was in no way involved in the development of the instrumental track.
- Pitbull initially wanted to bring Rihanna on board to be featured on the song. In other words, he wanted to use Rihanna's star power and name to get a hit, but she declined. However, if she had accepted, the song would have needed lyrics, which would likely have been provided by her songwriting team.
- Kesha was then recommended because of her knack for writing catchy hooks. "Timber" is bluegrass influenced folktronica that makes use of Kesha's country-style vocal twang. Kesha and her mother, country music songwriter Pebe Sebert, spent weeks writing the hooks and fleshing out the lyrics.
- While Pitbull wrote and rapped his two verses, Kesha sang about two-thirds of the song. Some people actually thought it was her song and many DJs only mentioned her when playing it. So it is a bit ironic that the song Pitbull is heard on the least has become his biggest seller.
While many people may condemn Pitbull for using other artists to further his own career, some might say he's a brilliant businessman who knows how to put together a hit. This isn't real artistry sure, but it's probably a talent in itself. However, Pitbull has had far more misses than hits. Perhaps he's been lucky rather than smart. The question is how much longer can Pitbull continue to have success making this kind of outdated party music.
Do you think Pitbull lacks talent and uses others to achieve success?
The club boom that Pitbull rode to the top of the charts is mostly dead. "Timber" succeeded because it fit into the popular folktronica trend, had an insanely catchy hook, and the harmonica sound was different than anything else on the radio. But now the trend in pop music is to write more personalized and serious lyrics.
His follow up single "Wild Wild Love" featuring GRL struggled to gain traction and stalled out at #30 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song attempted to fit into the indie pop boom by using folky instrumentation.
The lyrics to "Wild Wild Love" didn't fit with the current preference for more in-depth lyrical content in pop music.
Ladies and gentleman
You're looking at the new playboy
That's right, Armando Christian Perez
And when it comes to that pretty little bitty kitty
Don't stop get it get it baby let me pet it
I got that wild love
Love to get wild dirty freaky nasty, yeah I said it
I'll make you lose your heart and your mind at the same time
Don't believe me, bet it
I'm obsessed with that wild love for sure
Even though it's a catch twenty-two
It's a gift and curse for sure
But baby you know that you love it too, that's why
Was "Timber" Pitbull's last hurrah? He did manage to score another big hit in 2014 via his collaboration with Ne-Yo on the song "Time of Our Lives," but the kind of monumental success he was having has seemingly dried up in recent years.
It remains to be seen if he can survive considering that similar acts like Flo Rida and LMFAO have fallen victim to the loss of interest in party music on pop radio.