Uncle Luke, the man whose booty-shaking madness once made the U.S. Supreme Court stand up for free speech, gets as nasty as he wants to be for Miami New Times. This week, Luke describes Pitbull's early struggles in the rap game.
When Jennifer Lopez debuted her new single "On the Floor," featuring Pitbull, shortly before the new season of American Idol kicked off last month, it showed how far Mr. 305 had come since I discovered him many years ago. Back then, I was reading an article in a newspaper about the U.S. Census and how Latin Americans were growing by huge numbers across the country. I thought it would make good business sense to develop a Latin artist. I also figured that, since I was here in Miami, I needed to find a Cuban-American who represented the city's predominant Latin culture.
So my scouts fanned out to find a rapper with Cuban swagger who could hold his own. They brought me a Source magazine battle tape that featured Pitbull spitting rhymes. I immediately knew he was the one. I brought him into the old Luke Records office and told him I could see him doing big things. If he kept his head right, I said, he would be a worldwide star.
I put him through Luke's School of Hard Knocks. I took him on tours where he had to freestyle-battle other rappers. I ran him through the most difficult situations a performer can experience. It didn't come easy for him. But he listened to me. He kept fighting.
I had a heck of a time convincing people in the radio and music business that he was the real deal. I remember begging the program and radio directors at Power 96 (WPOW-FM 96.5) to play his early tracks. I fought them because I found it ludicrous that they didn't want to promote the first Cuban rapper from Miami. I find it funny that Power 96 is now one of his biggest supporters.
And while my other artists such as H-Town were disowning Luke Records, he stuck with me. He is so loyal to the people who have played an important role in his life. Guys who have worked for both me and Pitbull have nicknamed him Baby Luke because he conducts business in the style I taught him.
So to see this kid from the streets of Miami become a world icon has been a beautiful thing.