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The big break came when Pitbull's independent single "Oye" was featured on 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious movie soundtrack. By that time, Pitbull was also collaborating on street compilations (a.k.a. mixtapes) with Lil Jon, one of the nation's top hip-hop impresarios. Their partnership produced the song "Culo," Pitbull's first major hit as a solo artist. Defined by its syncopated beats and wild, improvised lyrics, the track was Pit's tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Latin chica's posterior. The song spent 21 weeks on the national Top 40 singles charts and peaked at No. 27. Projects with other hip-hop stars soon followed.
But his most influential collaboration came on the song "Gasolina," by the rising reggaetonero Daddy Yankee. Pitbull's high-octane Spanglish rhymes on that now-famous remix introduced reggaeton to mainstream hip-hop fans who normally wouldn't listen to Spanish-speaking rappers. It also helped catapult Yankee's album, Barrio Fino, to the top of the Billboard charts.
Despite the success of his work with reggaeton and crunk artists, Pitbull remains leery of being pigeonholed into any one genre. In fact his next project, which he hopes to release this year, is an all-Spanish disc, titled Armando, that will feature an Afro-Cuban feel.
"We all gotta help each other," he says of his wide-ranging collaborations. "We are all in it together. But I wouldn't call myself a reggaetonero or crunk artist.... I wouldn't call myself anything; I just want to get to the top."
Along the way, he'd like to earn some props for his hometown. "Miami is already like NYC and Atlanta," Pitbull says. "Everything that comes out here is good." He points to hip-hop luminaries Rick Ross, Trick Daddy, and, of course, Luther Campbell. "We're all diverse in Miami. We're not just about one thing. We're one of the greatest cities in the States, if not the world. And we're gonna take over in five years' time."
And where will Pitbull be in five years? "Shit! In five years? I'll be on an island, with an offshore bank account, living off the interest."
Take that, Señor Tancredo.