Rapper Pitbull, real name Armando Pérez, grew up in Miami, Fla., where people had to struggle to survive. He learned at a very young age that the choices people in his neighbourhood made were often life or death.
“Miami was the cocaine capital and what was going on around me I was 5, 6 years old, that’s when your mind is a sponge,” he told CNBC Make It. “I seen what it did — you either in prison, dead or snitchin’, so you might as well be a dead man walking.”
Instead of succumbing to his situation, Pitbull, 37, rose above it. “I always say that an oppressed mind is a creative mind because when you have nothing you figure out how to make something, right?” he explained.
After graduating from high school, Pitbull focused on his rap career. He chose the stage name Pitbull because it’s a breed that never gives up fighting—just like him. It represented his will to survive.
When he earned his first $1,500 advance, he bought a 1988 Mazda hatchback for his mother for $1,200. He put the rest in savings. That set the tone for his financial future. He learned never to do anything just for the money. It was also a lesson he gleaned from a greeting he and his friends used when they checked in on one another.
“You’d say, ‘Oh, I’m on this paper chase.’ Then I broke down those words: ‘a paper chase.’ That means I’m chasing paper. If I’m chasing paper, the paper’s gonna run,” he noted.
Even though he’s no longer living in Carol City, Miami, his childhood experiences keep him grounded.
“It all depends on what you want to do and how you want to grow, but if you think money is going to make you happy you are completely, completely confused,” he explained. “If you do it for the money, you are already screwed.”
This bit of wisdom applies to people regardless of where they are in life and what type of job they have.
“And I’m telling you this straight, if you do it because you want to, if it’s something you believe in — in that company, in that culture, in that movement — then it’s really a revolution,” he said. “You’re never going to work again in your life because you have won your freedom.”
Pitbull released his first album, M.I.A.M.I, in 2004. His first breakthrough single, “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho),” from his 2009 album Rebelution, hit number two on the Billboard Hot 100. His first number-one hit was “Give Me Everything” from the 2011 album Planet Pit.
Pitbull can also credit his multimillion-dollar career on product endorsements. He’s teamed up with brands such as Kodak, Dr. Pepper, and Walmart.