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By Phil Freeman
Published March 13, 2007

Florida-based Cuban rapper Pitbull created a sensation when his debut CD, M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is A Major Issue), was released in 2005. Its blend of tough, sexually charged rhymes in both English and Spanish and dancefloor-friendly beats courtesy of producers like Mr. Collipark and Lil’ Jon resonated immediately with hip-hop fans; “Culo” and “Toma” were major hits on hip-hop radio and MTV, despite being in Spanish—another sign of the increased purchasing and cultural power of Latin audiences. He also appeared on a remix of Daddy Yankee’s “Gasolina,” the breakout hit that brought reggaeton to mass-market attention. So naturally, there’s some anticipation about his follow-up disc, El Mariel.

“It’s gonna show a lot more versatility,” says Pitbull of the new disc, the title of which is a nod to his arrival in the U.S. as part of the Mariel boatlift. “Different records, different styles, but a whole lot of energy. I got a political record on there, where I’m talking about the whole situation in Cuba, but other than that, you got your club records, you got your street records, records speaking about what’s going on in my life or whatever.”

Pitbull is determined to make clear that he’s a hip-hop, not a reggaeton, artist. “They tried to throw me in that genre because I happen to rap in Spanish, but I just jumped on a couple of those records. I happened to be on one of the biggest reggaeton records ever, but I’m definitely not a reggaeton artist. That’s their movement,” he says. He’d like to see more cross-breeding between the two, though, feeling that reggaeton—which has become increasingly reliant on the same few simplistic beats—could benefit from the influx of new ideas. “There should definitely be a fusion. Hip-hop and reggaeton should find a way so reggaeton doesn’t sound so repetitive.”