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The Boatlift Floats

It must be hard beings all things to all people — especially when your name is Pitbull and you happen to be the top Latin MC in the country. Yeah, broadly speaking, Pit's music could be classified as good old-fashioned hip-hop, but when you pay close attention to our local boy's eclectic repertoire, it becomes clear he can be a one-of-a-kind musical enigma.

Over the span of his career, the 25-year-old "Mr. 305" has dabbled in Southern crunk, Miami bass, reggaetón, salsa, and R&B. His spitfire rhymes come racing out in English, Spanish, and Spanglish, while his songs' themes range from booty-party anthems like "Jealauso" to the political such as "Ya Se Acabó" (It's Over Now), penned after Fidel Castro transferred control of the Cuban government to his brother.

All of the above experimenting has served Pit well — his first album, M.I.A.M.I. (Money Is Still a Major Issue), scored a national hit with the Lil' Jon-produced club-banger "Culo," and other collaborations like N.O.R.E.'s "Oye Mi Canto" gave him added credibility with the reggaeton/Latin hop-hop community. Still, at times, it's tricky to get a sense of Pit's true character. He's often been quoted as being proud of his ability to jump genres and tackle different issues. Even so, El Mariel, his 2006 sophomore effort, suffered from a lack of cohesiveness. On that album politics, parties, and dance beats made for an uneven listening experience. So it's no surprise that Pit's third album The Boatlift — the title refers to Cuban exiles leaving their country during the '80s Mariel boat lift — tries to reconnect with the anything-goes vibe of his first fiesta-ready record.

The Boatlift, in a nutshell, stands as a hedonistic, dance-oriented Miami style urban spectacle. While the breakbeats quickly switch from Reggaetón to Crunk and to Miami Bass, Pit's rhymes get low and dirty with songs like the surprisingly tender (for Pitbull anyway) R&B flavored "My Life." The album really comes into its own with "The Anthem." The song features Lil Jon and starts with a standard Crunk beat, but then things quickly change into a sample of Wilfrido Vargas' all-time classic merengue, "El Negro." The lyrics are mostly in Spanish, and among the many digital snares, Lil Jon and Pit seem to be having the time of their lives without even trying too hard.

The bash continues with the beefiest song on the album, "Fuego," where Pit and Don Omar taunt wannabe gangsters over high-pitched robotic synthesizers and loud club sirens. Try as they might to sound hard, though, the duo ends up coming across as a couple of Miami kids looking for fun while trying to act tough, and that's the good thing about The Boatlift — it never takes itself too seriously. Like South Florida, it sure knows how to have a good time.

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Jose Davila

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