Since his debut in 2004, the Cuban-American MC Pitbull has stayed true to his Miami roots and dedicated most of his work to the art of shaking butts. Yet given the politically charged title of his sophomore album, El Mariel, named after the infamous Cuban boat lift that relocated almost 125,000 Cubanos to Florida, Pit appeared to be preparing himself to become his people’s mouthpiece. Instead, the project overflows with repetitive club-heavy songs, with only an occasional change of topic.
Focusing more on ass-shaking anthems, Pit becomes more of a one-trick potro than a political pundit. On the Miami bass throwback “Fuego,” he takes aim at studio gangstas, over a boisterous interpolation of pop singer Debbie Deb’s hit “When I Hear Music.” Then Mr. Collipark helps Mr. 305 spit more heat than D. Wade in overtime on the marching band drum–laced “Ay Chico (Lengua Afuera).”
While eardrum-shattering beats and thunderous hooks are in the majority here, Pit does show brief signs of expansion. Take the precautionary drug-trade cut, “Come See Me,” where he flows seamlessly over DJ Toomp’s chopped-and-screwed version of Willie Colón’s classic salsa number “La Murga.” Similarly, “Blood Is Thicker Than Water” comments on earth-changing current events (“I escaped poverty (poverty)/I don’t own jewelry, muthafucka, I own property/You can send ’em tsunamis that hit Indonesia/But ain’t a muthafuckin’ thing stoppin’ me”).
These moments of clarity are few and far between. Aside from a sparse few nods at poignancy (“Raindrops”) and sonic variation (the Lil Jon–produced “Dime [Remix]”), El Mariel is one big party that goes on too long. In fact, Pit could’ve trimmed some fat by disposing of less-than-stellar cuts like the crossover miss “Jungle Fever,” which features Wyclef’s crackling wails. The music may knock in the club, but Pitbull’s lack of diversity is a major issue. —JESÚS TRIVIÑO ALARCÓN
Read the rest of XXL’s Critical Beatdown review section in the
December 2006 issue (#87)