NEVER FORGETTING HIS ROOTS, THIS POP/ RAP/LATIN ICON ALSO USES HIS CLOUT AND RESOURCES TO HELP OTHERS

BY LAURA D.C. KOLNOSKI • PHOTO BY RANDALL SLAVIN

Known alternately as Pitbull and “Mr. Worldwide,” Armando Christian Pérez, in describing formative years in Miami, recalls being able to recite work of poet and Cuban national hero, José Martí, by age three. Born to expatriates of that island nation, he was influenced by South Florida’s unique musical genres, counting Celia Cruz among his early influences. In high school, Pérez began focusing on a career in rap and pop, ultimately choosing the name Pitbull to reflect the breed’s tenacity.

In 2002, Pérez was featured on Lil Jon and the East Side Boyz’ album, Kings of Crunk, a collaboration that grew through the years. In 2004, he released his debut album, M.I.A.M.I., followed by El Mariel in 2006 and The Boatlift in 2007. His fourth disc, Rebelution (2009), included the breakthrough hit single, “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho),” which peaked at number two on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Pitbull’s 2011 album, Planet Pit, featured T-Pain, and a track on the disc, “Give Me Everything,” was his first U.S. number-one single. In all, he has recorded 11 albums, sold over 100 million records worldwide, had number-one singles in 15 countries, and won 35 Billboard Latin Music Awards. His most recent honor was receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2016.

Also a committed philanthropist focusing on reducing poverty through educational initiatives, he started a tuition-free public charter middle and high school called Sports Leadership and Management (SLAM!) in Miami’s Little Havana, the neighborhood where he grew up. It now operates worldwide and has a 96 percent graduation rate. In response to Hurricane Maria, he also used his private plane to bring cancer patients from Puerto Rico to the mainland for treatment.

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