Pitbull: A Look Back At His Long Road To The VMA Stage

Pitbull, like many others before him, had to toil in a fickle rap climate in order to gain the fame and global fanfare he currently enjoys. After getting his start with crunk master Lil Jon in 2002 and releasing his hip-hop and Reggaeton-fueled Gold-selling indie debut M.I.A.M.I. in 2004, the 2011 VMA nominee and performer is currently riding high on the success of his latest studio album, the dance-flavored Planet Pit — spawning three singles that have made the Billboard Hot 100.

Ne-Yo and Nayer will join Pitbull to perform the smash hit “Give Me Everything” at the star-studded 2011 MTV Video Music Awards show this coming Sunday, amid a lineup that includes Lady Gaga, Adele, Bruno Mars, Lil Wayne, and Beyoncé among others. His journey to the VMA stage certainly didn’t happen overnight.

After M.I.A.M.I., the Cuban-American rapper scored a mild hit with the compilation album Money Is Still a Major Issue which hit #1 on the U.S. independent charts, peaking at 25 overall in 2005. In a bold move, he joined with mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs and the Bad Boy Latino imprint, going on to release El Mariel and The Boatlift, but neither album made a huge impact in sales. But the latter of the two LPs saw Pitbull establishing an international niche, charting in other countries.

After signing with J Records, Pitbull continued struggling to connect with American audiences, although his fourth album, Rebelution, went on to sell Gold in Canada with the album making good headway globally as well. His fifth album, Armando, sold Gold on Latin RIAA charts (that’s 50,000 units sold compared to 500,000 in the United States). While faring well internationally, the album peaked at 65 on the Billboard 200 charts after three singles failed to catch on in the States.

But after a number of high-profile collaborations (Enrique Iglesias, J.Lo), the rapper’s current and sixth studio album Planet Pit is at last performing well on the pop charts, propelled by his hit singles. The album debuted at #7 on the Billboard 200, his highest-charting album in the United States to date. First single “Hey Baby (Drop It To The Floor)” peaked at seven on the Hot 100 charts, while the second single, “Give Me Everything,” featuring the aforementioned Ne-Yo and Nayer, gave Pitbull his first ever #1 hit. The track continues to soar for the rapper, scoring 3 million digital downloads thus far with high sales of the single spanning across the globe.

While he’s riding high, Mr. 305 clearly feels confident enough to make light of Lindsay Lohan’s lawsuit against his use of her name in “Give Me Everything.” On Thursday, he made an offer to the troubled actress: “We’ll be performing ['Give Me Everything] at the VMAs, and, as a matter of fact, I’d like to send out an invitation to Lindsay Lohan,” Pitbull said on his Planet Pit website. “Hopefully she can come with me to the VMAs, and we can figure this out.”

The planet may not be under Pitbull’s ownership just yet but with the entire globe embracing the star, he certainly appears to be on his way.

The 28th annual MTV Video Music Awards will air live Sunday, August 28, from Los Angeles at 9 p.m. ET/PT, following the Selena Gomez-hosted pre-show at 8. See the list of nominees, revisit last year’s highlights and vote for Best New Artist at VMA.MTV.com.