(Money Is a Major Issue), the debut album from super-prospect Pitbull, arrives in stores with considerably high expectations. There is his reputation as one of the most industrious MCs in Dade County; the ubiquitous presence of Lil' Jon, who produced and appears on much of the disc; and the buzzing lead single, "Culo," on which the duo runs roughshod all over the potent "Coolie Dance" riddim. Much of the anticipation consists of equal parts vicarious desire and ethical concern; everyone wants Pit to blow up, but no one wants to see him sell out while doing it.
Appropriate to its acronym, Money Is a Major Issue, M.I.A.M.I. is mostly pay styles and Magic City traditions. The first half is commercial-oriented, with Oobie (herself an artist on Lil' Jon's BME Records) cooing backup vocals on radio cuts such as "Shake It Up" and "I Wonder;" then Pitbull comes raw with mix tape cuts such as "That's Nasty" and "Hustler's Withdrawal." It's on the second half that he sounds more comfortable, spitting thug raps and matching wits with Bun B from UGK, Trick Daddy, and Fat Joe.
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Two tracks bookend M.I.A.M.I. and sum up Pitbull's ambitions. The opener is "305 Anthem," a mash-out over which he screams, "Me, I'm gonna sell like it's ice cream in hell." At the end the "Miami mix" of "Culo" arrives, a track that subtly blends Mr. Vegas's "Pull Up" and Pitbull's number, the latter of which led to a copyright lawsuit from Mr. Vegas earlier this year. It's good to see that the two have seemingly squashed their beef over bragging rights to the Coolie Dance riddim, even though Nina Sky's "Move Ya Body" hit took the crown.