The Miami-born rapper’s songs blare out of clubs, karaoke parlours and aerobics venues across the city. But on May 17, Pitbull came to perform them in person, in front of an estimated 40,000 adoring fans at Olympic stadium – the biggest concert to rock the Kingdom in recent memory. Before the show, Pitbull spoke to The Post about taking his music across the world and his experiences in Cambodia.
MOBILE phone operator Beeline celebrated the one-year anniversary of its entry into the Cambodian market on Monday at the Raffles Hotel, where company representatives offered a presentation on the firm’s market penetration and corporate strategy.
While audience members listened attentively as PowerPoint slides flashed by, many were likely less interested in SIM card data than they were in the man Beeline General Director Gael Campan referred to as “probably the biggest international star that ever set foot in Cambodia so far”.
With apologies to Sean Kingston and Jose Ramos-Horta, Campan was of course speaking of Pitbull, the American hip-hop sensation who performed at Olympic Stadium on Monday night. Pitbull strode in towards the end of the press conference, posing for pictures and amicably answering questions from a black-and-yellow-clad Beeline representative who translated his responses into Khmer. Asked to describe what fans could expect from the show that evening, he answered simply: “Translate this: off the chain” (The literal Khmer translation is “min chham chravak”, though the sentiment is probably best expressed through a series of gyrations).
Lingering confusion about how to address the Miami-born rap star (Mr. Bull?) was quickly dispelled when he introduced himself as Armando Perez. Sitting on a couch at the Raffles’ Elephant Bar, he explained his stage name thusly:
“A pitbull that is a dog that’s used in the United States, and in lots of parts of the world, to fight,” he said. “When they bite, they lock, their jaws lock, they don’t let go until they tear something up – it’s the same way I feel about the music business.”
Pitbull broke through in the US with his 2004 album M.I.A.M.I. (short for “Money Is A Major Issue”. This title was followed by 2005’s “Money Is Still A Major Issue”). The Kingdom was the fourth stop on an Asian tour that has seen him pass through Taipei, Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, with Singapore up Tuesday night.
After a series of local hip-hop acts warmed up the crowd – estimated at 40,000 – Pitbull took the stage at Olympic Stadium to thunderous applause. He had donned pieces of several three-piece suits for the occasion – navy slacks, a grey vest and a plaid jacket – and by the end of his hour-long set, he had sweated through all of them. With a DJ and a four-piece live band working behind him, he rapped in both English and Spanish through a mix of crowd-pleasers, newer tracks and rumba numbers.
An obvious low-point came as he attempted at one point to lead the crowd in a chant extolling the virtues of getting “f***** up”, and most of the rest of the lyrics weren’t exactly Shakespearean (unless you count all those sonnets that the Bard wrote exhorting women to get “down”, “low”, or some combination of the two). The fans didn’t seem to mind too much, however; Pitbull earned a cheer during his encore when, as the band began “Hotel Room Service”, he invited all the “sa-aat” women of Cambodia to join him for a hotel party.
Rin Sochea, a 24-year-old graphic designer, said she had bought her ticket after months of enjoying Pitbull’s music videos on CTN.
“I was thrilled to see him in person, despite the fact that his bodyguards didn’t allow me to take many of his photos,” she said.
Sieng Chhor Von, 19, a student at the Institute of Foreign Languages, said Pitbull earned points for his energetic stage presence and rakish dance moves.
“He was wonderful – he did a great job on stage,” Sieng Chhor Von said. “The audience members enjoyed themselves trying to dance like him.”
Pitbull credited his multicultural upbringing with his international appeal, and called his reception in the Kingdom “a great experience”.
“It’s amazing when you step into a country [where] they may not speak the language, maybe not even understand the music, but it just makes them feel good,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THARUM BUN