While on set of his “Greenlight” music video today, Pitbull sat down to do a quick phone interview with SouthFlorida.com to talk about his idol, Celia Cruz, his star on the Walk of Fame, his dream collabortations, and more.
It’s hard to catch up with Miami rapper Pitbull, who is on the go and seemingly everywhere.
After tour stops in Texas and Georgia earlier this week, Mr. 305 is heading to the 954 for two concerts this weekend. At 7 p.m. July 31, he’ll be at the BB&T Center in Sunrise as part of his Bad Man Tour with Prince Royce. Then 8 p.m. Aug. 1, it’s “An Evening with Pitbull,” at Hard Rock Live in Hollywood.
On Friday he was on Miami’s Watson Island shooting his new video “Greenlight.” Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Christian Perez, took a short break to talk about his multiple projects and the thrill of getting a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles.
His star, which was No. 2,584, was placed in the Celia Cruz Square of the walk. He was also presented with a high-heel shoe from Cruz’s estate.
“That’s definitely a blessing and an amazing opportunity but what made it even more special was that I got a chance to be on the same block as Celia Cruz. And I ended up with one of her heels and that means more to me than the star. Celia is so amazing. La reina de Cuba, she’s our queen,” Pitbull said of the ceremony. “What it means is something for our culture, our community, our people, that I truly embody the American dream.”
Born and raised in Miami, the Cuban-American learned to recite the poems of the late Cuban poet Jose Marti and listened to the tapes of motivational speaker Tony Robbins. He also enjoyed playing basketball.
“I always say I was never a troublemaker but I was always around some trouble and what kept me out of trouble was basketball,’’ said the Coral Park High graduate. “Basketball taught me discipline. It taught me team work. It taught me the harder I worked, the better I get and it also taught me how to be able to help others.”
But music was also a calling. He began street rapping and creating underground mixtapes, which became his launching pad.
Known for mixing Latin beats with hip hop and pop and a machine-gun-like delivery, Pitbull has since become a global pop hitmaker. His music often reflects his love of South Florida, with album titles including his debut “M.I.A.M.I.,” “The Mariel” and “The Boatlift.” His 2015 Spanish-language album was named “Dale” after his well-known catchphrase.
Besides being a prolific performer and hitmaker, Pitbull, 35, is also an education advocate. Since 2013, he has been a brand ambassador for the Sports Leadership Academy Management (SLAM!) public charter school in Miami. Aimed at sixth graders to seniors, SLAM! focuses on sports management, marketing and media production.
“We are not telling kids to become a superstar athlete,’’ he said. “We are trying to excite the way they are educated, the way they are learning by utilizing things that they love. If they love football and if we are working on data analytics, then we are going to use fantasy football for the class curriculum. … If we find ways through sports to make that fun, exciting for them to learn, that’s priceless.”
The Miami school, housed in a white, multi-story building blocks away from Marlins Park, works with the Miami Marlins. Another school will open in Henderson, Nev., in August. So will a SLAM! campus on Summit Boulevard in West Palm Beach, according to the school’s website.
“We need to multiply and multiply and multiply SLAMs because when you grab a young mind and you mold it and you teach how to believe in itself, you motivate it and you inspire it and you teach what comes from hard work, it’s something that can actually [help] make educated decisions moving forward.”
The rapper, who still calls Miami home, will headline a weekend cruise aboard the Norwegian Pearl on March 10. Last November, Pitbull served as godfather for Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ship the Norwegian Escape, which he christened at PortMiami.
His recent song “Freedom” is featured in commercials for the company. The song will also be featured in Pitbull’s 10th full-length studio album “Climate Change,” which comes out this fall.
Before he hangs up the phone to get back to the video shoot with fellow South Florida rappers Flo Rida and LunchMoney Lewis, Pitbull talks about collaboration.
“I’ve been blessed to have been able to work with a lot of artists who have given me the opportunity to learn from.”
Having worked with artists from Jennifer Lopez to Keith Urban, does Pitbull have a wish list of future collaborators?
“Yes, there are people on my wish list, I mean people like Jay Z who I not only admire as an artist but also as a businessman and I understand his hustler mentality,” said Pitbull.
“There’s people such as Celia Cruz. She may not be here with us but her energy is always with us in one way or another and she is someone that I look up to and love and enjoy. And through technology, let’s see what amazing things we can put together but the beautiful thing about music is that there’s always people to work with, there’s always collaborations that you can do and there’s always more people, the public and the fans that you can bring together. That’s the fun part of it.”
Tickets for Pitbull’s concert at the BB&T Center July 31 are $25 to $135. Visit ticketmaster.com
Tickets for “An Evening with Pitbull” at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino are $70 to $140. Visit myhrl.com.