Cuban-American MC Pitbull’s stylistic ADHD—he flits between crunk and reggaeton and is a sucker for one-for-the-ladies smoochers—will either make him king of all dance floors or master of none. His history of collaborations—he’s worked with everyone from Lil Jon to Luther Campbell; Rick Ross to Ying Yang Twins—is both evidence of and a contributor to his blurry (self) image. His third album, last year’s The Boatlift, almost sinks beneath the weight of “featuring” credits: Lil Jon (again), Bun B, Ken-Y, Vybz Cartel etc., and pendulums from moments of apparently sincere social commentary (as the album’s title suggests) to beyond-inane embarrassments (“Stripper Pole,” anyone?)
In fairness, Pitbull’s eclectic approach reflects his Miami roots—literally somewhere between the Jamaican/Latin reggaeton collision of the Caribbean and the club-friendly, repetitive crunk of the American South—and he delivers with unusual eloquence, enunciation and a focused energy with reflects his legendary ambition. Rather than wrestling with pigeonholing the man, listeners can just take him at whatever level they choose: culturally aware, educated poet (he claims his parents made him memorize the works of Jose Marti as a kid); or street-suave, after-dark hustle/womanizer. Don’t let his increasingly metro David Beckham-like image fool you: there’s every sign that Pitbull’s best work is ahead of him and he may yet be one of very few contemporary rappers to marry commercial validation with an actual message beyond bling ‘n’ booty. (Paul Rogers)
Pitbull, Baby Bash en Tour at the Hudson Theatre, 295 E. Caroline Street, San Bernardino, (909) 783-9900, Saturday, April 5. Doors at 6:30PM; Tickets $45, presale. All Ages.