When Armando Perez, aka Pitbull, walked onto the set of "Estudio Billboard" earlier this year, he shook his head at the bongos, the piano and the guitar.
"I don't do any of that," he said bluntly.
Pitbull doesn't play an instrument nor does he compose on one. But few artists today seem to have such a remarkable capacity to produce hits in all types of formats, genres and languages.
On this week's charts, Pitbull is No. 18 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Top 40 tally as the featured guest on Enrique Iglesias' "I Like It."
There are three Pitbull tracks on this week's Latin Rhythm Songs chart: "Shut It Down," featuring Akon (No. 24); "Egoista" by Belinda featuring Pitbull (27); and "Alright," featuring Machel Montana (38). And of course, there are last year's successes, including "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)" and "Hotel Room Service," which peaked at Nos. 2 and 8, respectively, on the Hot 100.
"He attracts Latin listeners and everybody else," says radio consultant José Santos of Santos Latin Media. "He is the real U.S. Hispanic. They like him, maybe because he's humble. He's a great interview; he's approachable."
Pitbull has all that, but he also has a particular knack for putting hooks and riffs together and creating ear-friendly collages. "I Know You Want Me," for example, is the No. 2-selling Latin download in the United States of all time, according to Nielsen SoundScan, behind Shakira's "Hips Don't Lie."
The catchiest part of the track, Pitbull says, is the opening "one, two, three, four" count in English and Spanish, which segues into a remix of "75, Brazil Street" by Pat-Rich and Nicola Fasano. Beyond that, the song's hooks are snippets of other hooks, including El Cata's "You Want Me," which provides the basis for the song, and Dominican singer Omega's "Paleta."
Even when he doesn't get involved in producing the track, a featured performance by Pitbull on another artist's song brings a distinct edge. Or, as Iglesias puts it, "When he came into the studio, I showed him what I had, and he said, 'You let me do my thing.' "
Part of Pitbull's "thing" was as easy as adding the "go, DJ, go" shout-out that's heard at the beginning of the track. "There's nothing better than talking to a DJ," says Pitbull, who's also featured on Shakira's "Lo Hecho Hecho Esta" and is currently producing a track with her.
On Belinda's "Egoista," which Pitbull didn't produce, he added the Cuban-sounding chant of "Ego, ego, egoista" heard in the introduction. "The smallest thing on a record is what can make a hit record," he says.
The explosion of singles will serve to set up Pitbull's upcoming Spanish-language album, "Armando," which has been pushed back to September. Meanwhile, a European tour is slated for the summer, and an English album is due in 2011.
"Everything's working out," Pitbull says, adding, "It's definitely a melting pot of music."