How "Talentless" Rapper Pitbull Achieved So Much Success

Rapper and producer Pitbull (Armando Christian PĂ©rez) has managed to have a hugely successful career and has outlasted many other acts heavily focused on making club music. This despite criticism that he isn't particularly talented. He can't sing and Gentleman's Quarterly ranked him as the 9th worst rapper of all time. He also doesn't have popstar good looks. His lyrics often revolve around him living the high life. Yet he has 8 million Twitter followers and a decade long career. He even has his own record label Mr. 305 Inc. So, why you may wonder has he been such a success story. Being a feature artist on other people's songs or having features on his own albums seems to be a big part of the answer.

Pitbull's early albums weren't commercial successes
Pitbull's early albums weren't commercial successes

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. However, 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, AKA 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 has sold only about 190,000 copies. His third album The Boatlift did worse with a debut of only 50.

His fourth album was the first to be released through a major label Polo Grounds Music, which is a division of RCA. This is when Pitbull became known to fans of pop and club music. It's the first album that makes heavy use of features. Akon, B.o.B, Ke$ha, Avery Storm, Nayer, Lil Jon, Nicole Scherzinger and others made an appearance. The album debuted at #8 on the Billboard 200 and sold 250,000 copies in the United States alone.

Give Me Everything ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, Nayer

Feel This Feature ft. Christina Aguilera

Major Success, Finally!

In 2011, he featured on the Jennifer Lopez song On the Floor. The song was a massive worldwide hit peaking at #1 in many countries and at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. This was major international exposure for Pitbull. The first release from his 5th album Planet Pit was a collaboration with rapper T-Pain. The song was a decent hit but the follow-up Give Me Everything was massive. It's still gets a lot of pop radio play now. The song featured Ne-Yo, Nayer and Dutch DJ Afrojack and became Pitbull's first Hot 100 #1. It was also a worldwide hit.

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 called Global Warming: Meltdown with 5 new tracks all of which have feature artists. The lead single from the re-release Timber featuring Kesha could possibly become Pitbull's biggest selling single. It's his second Billboard Hot 100 #1 and his first #1 on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs (HDS) chart.

An acoustic version of Timber by Pitbull feat. Kesha using raw leaked vocals with no studio editing shows why he needs features to get hits

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 electronica instrumental 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 huge hit at the time. He was in no way involved in the development of the instrumental track.

Pitbull initially wanted to bring the biggest name in pop Rihanna on board to feature on the song. In other words, he wanted to use Rihanna's star power and name to get a hit. 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 she's one of the best hook writers in pop music today. Timber is bluegrass influenced folktronica. This also made Nashville-based Kesha perfect because she's recorded several country songs of her own. Kesha and her mother country music songwriter Pebe Sebert spent weeks writing the now iconic hook.

Swing your partner round and round
End of the night, it's going down
One more shot, another round
End of the night, it's going down

It's going down, I'm yelling timber
You better move, you better dance
Let's make a night you won't remember
I'll be the one you won't forget

Wooooah (timber), wooooah (timber), wooooah (it's going down)
Wooooah (timber), wooooah (timber), wooooah (it's going down)

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 Kesha when playing it. The song he's heard least on may 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.

The chorus of Wild Wild Love was criticized for ripping off the instrumental to Last Goodbye

What do you think?

How do you feel about Pitbull?

  • I love him, how could anyone question his talent
  • He's ok, he has a few good songs
  • He's an example of everything that's wrong with music
  • I don't know how I feel about him
See results without voting

Do you think Pitbull lacks talent and uses others to achieve success?

  • Yes
  • No
  • I don't know
See results without voting

The club boom is largely 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 radio. But much of this trend consists of serious lyrics. His current single Wild Wild Love featuring GRL is struggling on radio and on iTunes. The song attempted to fit into the current indie pop boom by using an instrumental that sounds suspiciously like the banjo/mandolin accompaniment in Kesha's folk pop tearjerker Last Goodbye leading to comments like this one on Soundcloud:

Like practically everyone else when I listen to Wild Wild Love, I begin singing the chorus to Last Goodbye.

The lyrics to Wild Wild Love don't fit with the current preference for deeper lyrical content in pop music.

Ladies and gentleman
You're looking at the new playboy
Who you?
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? 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.

Has Pitbull Really Done Well with Critics?

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Comments 11 comments

DelshonC6 profile image

DelshonC6 2 years ago from Independence, Missouri

I wouldn't call him talentless, because music is very subjective, but I concur that without features from women with the slightest bit of clout, there would be no Pitbull. I also believe that commercial success ruined everything we loved about him when he first came out. I'm sure the Top 10's stroke his ego, but everything he releases is beyond lackluster.

Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 2 years ago from California Author


I'm not sure it's so much that he's talentless either. Maybe more that he stuck with what seemed to work and never branched out much beyond it. But whenever I like his songs, it's always because of the features.

DelshonC6 profile image

DelshonC6 2 years ago from Independence, Missouri

These features are all he has to rely on now.

Bradley 2 years ago

He's one of these people who keeps their name out there by always having a song out. He has I think 4 songs out now including features for others. That's easy to do when you have very little involvement in making your music. And yes he has more misses than successes. It's like throwing mud at a wall and seeing how much sticks.

Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 2 years ago from California Author


Exactly. He's everywhere and he has a lot of charisma. It's worked well for him so far even if he has more fails than hits.

Nick 23 months ago

He's a good performer and that's about it. At least he doesn't pretend his music is artistic or serious. There are alternative artists who aren't great either but they get taken seriously because there music deals with serious topics. As much as I dislike pitbull I prefer him to other not so talented people who believe they make "real" and "artistic" music when they're really pretty bland.

Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 23 months ago from California Author


It's true that many not-so-talented people get a pass simply because they make serious music. And plenty of talented people make pop music and are written off as untalented because their music isn't thought to be serious enough.

Bill Rabara 19 months ago

Zero talent, objectively.

Aaron 14 months ago

I saw him perform at an event once and he's a great entertainer. Performance ability is a talent so he does have talent. But if he can't sing, rap, dance or produce I'm not sure if he has a right to be on a stage in the first place. He also rapped with a backing track which seemed unnecessary. He entertained me though so he's good at showmanship.

Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 14 months ago from California Author


I agree he's a great performer. He's energetic and charismatic. So, I'm not sure I would ever say 100% talentless. But when it comes to music creation he hasn't shown any. I often wonder though if he tried to address more serious topics in his raps, could he earn respect? Could he be good at it?

BaBabooey 5 months ago

Please no more Pitbull....please!!

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