itbull is a rapper out to make a name for himself and his city. Those who do not recognize Pitbull by name may be more familiar with the word “Culo”, which the rapper repeatedly chants over the coolie dance riddim on his hit of the same name. Pitbull was also the Cuban link in Lil’ Jon’s incendiary Merengue Remix of “Get Low”, a song that promised almost limitless horizons for crunk.
Pitbull himself made an interesting observation when he said crunk is just slowed down Miami bass music. He makes that connection explicit on “Money Is A Major Issue”, his full-length support to “Culo”, a song that celebrates gyrating posteriors, one of Miami’s traditional song subjects.
But it’s difficult to measure how much of Miami’s 20-year hip-hop history feeds into M.I.A.M.I. Pitbull himself pays tribute to pioneers like Luke Campbell, who put 2 Live Crew on the map, but he also counts Illmatic and Ready To Die among his favorite albums—the same New York classics that helped pushed Miami booty music off the map and effectively submerged the South until just recently.
But as Pitbull’s sideman Cubo raps on “We Don’t Care Bout Ya”, “Now that Lil’ Jon has opened the door, it’s over dawg”. And Miami figures prominently in his master plan for crunk. Lil’ Jon has expressed his love for Miami in interviews and even decided to record his new record there, rather than in his long-time home, Atlanta. And while Jon gives Pitbull several hot jams here, he surprisingly also has his name all over several of the album’s missteps.
M.I.A.M.I. is that odd record frontloaded with weak material and then packed with great songs on the B-side. Three of the first seven tracks are rather dull crunk-jams featuring Oobie, possibly the least interesting and worst-named R&B; hook girl around. Lil’ Jon helms each of these but neither he nor Pitbull seem capable of pulling them out of the murk.
Immediately after the final Oobie track things pick up with a guest spot from Bun B of UGK, and then get very hot with “Dammit Man”. Jon met Pitbull through hometown workhorse producers the Diaz Brothers, and it is they, not Jon, who truly set the Miami sonic blueprint for Pitbull. They go all out on “Dammit”, with quick cymbal hits and Latin horn refrains; Pitbull says “I’m gonna kill ‘em in the club with this one” and it sounds more like a frank afterthought than a boast.
From there on is a jaw-dropping set of excellent tracks—Lil’ Jon’s best contribution, “That’s Nasty”, the locked-dance floor crunch of “Back Up” and “Hurry Up and Wait” and the album’s clear highlight, “Melting Pot”. Pitbull joins Southern club overlord Trick Daddy and Terror Squad affiliate and Miami radio host DJ Khaled, who lays down a Resident Evil piano roll and sonar soundings over which Trick and Pitbull and flow effortlessly.
Pitbull largely sticks to “girls/dancing/I’m-hard” rhymes, but demonstrates some depth (and a flow beyond what he displays on the rest of the album) with “Hustler’s Withdrawal”, reflecting on his father’s life and fake gangsters. Pitbull is aware of the contrast himself, saying in interviews he doesn’t mind giving “stupid” hits like “Culo” to the masses and suggesting there could be more street poet style to come. “Give them what they want now and get more later”, he said in one magazine interview. “I still slip some heavy stuff in there”.
If, at 23, Pitbull’s music doesn’t quite measure up to an album’s worth of material, it’s more the fault of his excellent taste in collaborators than any large weakness on his part. Luckily, the insight and flow of, in particular, “Hustler’s Withdrawal” suggests Pitbull has a some exciting “heavy stuff” to offer in the future in addition to impressive club smashes like “Culo”.
Reviewed by: Erick Bieritz
Reviewed on: 2004-09-20