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Pitbull talks music, brand, and immigration

By Denise Quan, CNN
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Pitbull talks new video, immigration
  • Rapper Pitbull has a No. 1 hit with the single "Give Me Everything"
  • A fan of fashion, he says he loves to shop sales
  • His parents are from Cuba, and he has some thoughts on U.S. immigration policy

Hollywood, California (CNN) -- It's Press Day at the swanky Roosevelt Hotel in Hollywood. While a growing lineup of journalists waits in the green room, Pitbull gets down to business in a hotel room next door. He rattles off one perfect soundbite after another. He laughs. He mugs for the camera.

When the 30-year-old chart-topper is asked to ignore the interviewer and directly address the video camera, he leans forward and stares down the barrel of the lens.

"Welcome to Planet Pit," he says.

For Armando Cristian Perez, it's all about connecting with his audience and expanding the Pitbull brand. He used to be known as Mr. 305, a reference to the area code of his native Miami. But on his sixth studio album, he's going global. And if there's any question about his intentions, the first cut on "Planet Pit" is called "Mr. Worldwide."

Pitbull's new track with Marc Anthony, "Rain Over Me," is shaping up to be a smash. His last single, "Give Me Everything" featuring Ne-Yo, hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the past few months, the Cuban-American rapper has performed on "American Idol," "The Voice," "The Billboard Music Awards," the "Today" show and all the big late-night programs. He's rolled out a line of vodkas under the name Voli, and he may or may not be joking when he talks off-handedly about designing a collection of high-end women's shoes.

"We like to stay sexy, baby," he purrs. "From Miami, everything we do is sexy."

Thanks to an infectious new album and some irresistible dance beats, Pitbull is finding himself the life of the party this summer. He may not be Mr. Worldwide quite yet, but he's Mr. Everywhere. And he's sexy, baby.

CNN: Is this where you've always envisioned your career going?

Pitbull: Did I see myself where we are at right now? No. I've always had a goal, though. I've always had goals, always had visions, always had a plan, always been very strategic. '09 was freedom in music. 2010 was invasion. In 2011, empire. I started doing shows in places that I couldn't pronounce, didn't know existed, and I've seen people that didn't speak English or Spanish rapping to every lyric and singing to every hook. I said, "This is the type of music that I want to do."

CNN: "Planet Pit" is a happy summertime album.

Pitbull: It embodies an escape because there's so much negativity going on in the world right now: wars, economies, revolutions, immigration, tsunamis, you name it. There's always something going on, and people need that 45-minute-to-an-hour-and-15-minute break, where they just escape and not worry about bills, health care and God knows what. That, to me, is when you're making great music: when people can just forget about what's going on.

CNN: Your new single, "Rain Over Me," features you and Marc Anthony.

Pitbull: It's the first record he's done in English in over 10 years. We feel it's going to be a strong contender all over the world and obviously something that can contend on the charts.

CNN: You used to dress in athletic jerseys and baggy clothing. Now you're dressing like something out of "Miami Vice." How does it feel to be wearing tight pants?

Pitbull: Well, let me tell you about the growth of Pitbull, not only musically but from a sense of fashion. I grew up in a city where all the guys that we looked up to were very sharp, always looked good, spoke well, were gentlemen but were very dangerous, whether it was the "Miami Vice" or "Scarface" look.

This is the truth: I'm into sales. I love deals. I'm definitely a sucker for steals. Now I'm able to afford a different sense of fashion, but it's still on the clearance section! So how does it feel to be in tight pants? Great! It feels really good, because I was always wondering how you run away or get into any type of physical confrontation if your pants are right here (points to his thigh area).

CNN: Your parents are immigrants from Cuba. How do you feel about anti-immigration legislation in states like Arizona and Georgia?

Pitbull: When it comes to immigration laws in the United States of America, I think that it's very contradicting to everything that this beautiful country stands for. This is a country that's been built by immigrants. Native Americans, yeah, but as far as everybody else, we came here. If we start pushing people out or not allowing them in or not allowing them to indulge in at least feeling what it's like to have freedom and maybe in their own way to live out the American dream, I think it's very contradicting to everything that the Constitution stands for.

CNN: How do you feel President Obama is doing?

Pitbull: I think in light of everything, he's handling it well. Obama, keep doing your thing.

CNN: When do you think we're going to have a Latino president?

Pitbull: As far as a Latino president, I think it's around the corner.