SERIOUS MESSAGE SUNK IN: HE'D RATHER BE SOSA THAN TONY MONTANA
In Shirley Halperin's cover story for this week's Hollywood Reporter, rapper Pitbull discusses how Scarface influenced him in his teenage years. The message he took away from the film seems unique in the hip-hop milieu. Here's an excerpt from the article:
The Pitbull epic began when his mother, Alysha Acosta, arrived in Florida from Cuba during the early 1960s as part of Operation Pedro Pan (or Peter Pan), Miami's Catholic Welfare Bureau's two-year effort to get youth out of communist Cuba. His father also came over seeking asylum, settling in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood. Their son Armando was born in 1981, a year in which drug-ravaged Miami recorded 621 homicides and was eulogized in a Time cover story, "Paradise Lost." This was the cocaine cowboy era captured in movies like Scarface.
Pit's father and namesake, known in the neighborhood as a charismatic street hustler, often would take his son to the local bars, where the boy would first perform for an audience, reciting Cuban poetry from a bar stool as his father looked on proudly. Pit's parents divorced in 1985.
Bring up the Brian De Palma classic -- not universally beloved in Miami for the cultural stereotypes it spawned -- and Pitbull takes no umbrage. "We all have Scarfaces in our family," he says matter-of-factly. "[The movie] is the truth. It wasn't exaggerated. Scorsese, Oliver Stone, De Palma -- those guys were right on the money." Pitbull says he's seen it too many times to count and that a serious message sunk in: that he didn't want to end up like the protagonist Tony Montana. Rather, says Pit: "I wanted to be Sosa -- educated, good-looking, a good dresser, and he's the one who was running it. And notice, he never got his hands dirty. He sipped his tea. He was nice, not aggressive. And at the end of it all, he was the one that stayed. So I realized around 18 that Tony's the wrong guy to be looking up to."
What Pitbull learned from his immediate surroundings, besides how to sell drugs, which he did for a while, was the skill of connecting with people. That's his most powerful gift -- winning loyalty of everyone he encounters, from strangers on the street to dealmakers in a boardroom. He does this, in part, with a relentlessly upbeat attitude. Pitbull explains his six-year rise to the top in the exuberant idiom of a motivational speaker: "2009 is freedom; 2010, invasion; 2011, build empire; 2012, grow wealth; 2013, put the puzzle together; 2014, buckle up; 2015, make history." It's a mantra he shares with manager Charles Chavez, who says his goal is for Pitbull to become a billion-dollar enterprise. "We have a plan -- with the music, TV projects [Pit boasts a development deal with Endemol, producer of Big Brother], films [he's teamed up with Ryan Seacrest for a TV miniseries on the Bacardi family], his businesses, the brands that we get involved with," says Chavez. "You never know, but it's the plan."
Pitbull is more confident, even willing to time-stamp the future threshold. "Do I think it's realistic to be a billion-dollar company by [age] 35? Absolutely."