PHILADELPHIA — Say what you will about Pitbull. The Cuban-American rapper certainly has a myriad of fanatics and also some detractors. But the uber-popular Pitbull is a rare contemporary performer.
The artist, who files his taxes as Armando Perez, is all about fun. Some 20,000 pop music fans lost it when Pitbull stepped on to the stage following rousing performances rendered by Paramore, Jason Derulo and Fall Out Boy at Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center earlier this month.
Pitbull, who headlined and engaged the crowd like an old school entertainer, scored the highest applause quotient of the night during one of the season's 'Jingle Ball' concerts, which features a who's who of pop talent.
"I'm just having fun," Perez said before hitting the stage. "This is what I love. This is what I live for. I'm living a dream right now. It's amazing how things have worked out and I'm loving every minute of it."
Perez, 32, broke out in 2011 with "Planet Pit,'' which featured "Give Me Everything,'' his initial number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. An array of hits has followed and the rapper-songwriter-producer, who will perform Friday at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resorts Casino, is ubiquitous these days as his catchy cuts appear in clubs, in stores and at sporting events.
"It's crazy," Perez said. "Who would ever think this would happen but I appreciate every bit of it."
Punk icon turned spoken word artist Henry Rollins believes it's important to suffer before becoming a successful recording artist.
"Otherwise you just don't get it," Rollins said. "If you go through the hard times first, the odds increase that you won't waste what you've accomplished and you can sustain it."
The entertainer known as Mr. 305 (Miami's area code) managed to successfully navigate through a hard-scrabble childhood. His Cuban parents split up when he was a child in Miami and he spent time in a foster home in Georgia.
"I had some rough times," Perez said. "It got pretty desperate."
His teen years were turbulent. Perez was kicked out of the house. He sold drugs. But music saved Perez. "I don't know where I'd be without it," Perez said. "I ended up being very fortunate."
Perez circled back to Miami and hooked up with Luther Campbell of 2 Live Crew fame. Campbell signed Perez to Luke Records in 2001.
The savvy Campbell was wise enough to see Perez' potential. The Pitbull phenomena began to emerge in 2004 with the release of 'M.I.A.M.I.' The album included the catchy 'Culo,' which entered the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100.
"Things started going my way," Perez said. "I just kept building on it."
Perez and Sean 'Diddy' Combs co-founded Bad Boy Latino, a subsidiary of Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment. Perez leads the A&R division of the label, which focuses on Latin hip-hop and soul.
"I wear many hats," Perez said. "They all fit."
But music is Perez' passion. He compares what he crafts and records to the drugs he once sold. "There's a similarity," Perez said. "It's about getting people hooked on something. Now I get people hooked on my music and that's a good thing."
PITBULL appears Friday, Dec. 27 at the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino, 39 Norwich Westerly Road, Ledyard. Tickets are $65, $80 and $105. Show time is 8 p.m. For more information, call 800-200-2882.
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