NEW YORK (Billboard) - Last year, the once mighty TVT Records filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and eventually shut its doors, leaving a number of artists in limbo. But for Miami rapper Pitbull, who signed to TVT in 2004 and released four albums on the label, the turn of events provided an opportunity to break free and prove his bite was as big as his bark.
First Pitbull released the Lil Jon-assisted track "Krazy" in October through the Orchard, the digital music distributor that acquired TVT. The song reached No. 30 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became Pitbull's highest-charting single at the time.
He then signed a one-off deal with the independent label Ultra Records for the release of the infectious "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)." The track, which was licensed to the Fox show "So You Think You Can Dance," peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in June. It was Pitbull's first top 10 entry on the chart, and it has sold 1.7 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan. ("Krazy" is his second-best-selling digital track, with 808,000 downloads.)
The rapper also found a new home in indie label Polo Ground Records. He'll release the album "Rebelution" on September 1 in conjunction with RCA Music Group and his own Mr. 305 label.
"'Rebelution' stands for a fighter. I feel like I've been fighting in music and creating new ways and new opportunities to make things work even when people thought it wouldn't," Pitbull, born Armando Perez, says. "It also stands for situations within my family and all the political issues back in Cuba."
Pitbull worked with producer Jim Jonsin, as well as Lil Jon, Collipark, Play-N-Skillz and Drop. Jon, Akon, Pharrell, T.I., Trick Daddy, Jackie O. and Jennifer Lopez are among the collaborators.
"Pit's the type of person that goes from city to city and picks up on what's hot and applies it to his music, so the direction on this album is ever changing and growing," says Jonsin, who has been friends with Pitbull for seven years. "There is realness about him that all people should have. If you have the time to get to know him, you love him. He should run for governor."
Narration on the album takes listeners on a tour of Miami -- more uptempo dance songs are introduced as representing South Beach, and other tracks stand for different neighborhoods. "It's a way to further show how I've been raised in Miami and why I have so many different musical influences," Pitbull says.
"Pitbull has a rap sensibility but pop upside potential," RCA/Jive chairman/CEO Barry Weiss says. "The rap weight has always been there, but no one ever really tapped into his true pop potential. With 'Calle Ocho' being No. 2 on the charts, this just sets a precursor for some really big things."
And Pitbull is ready to reach out to a bigger audience. "My time at TVT was not a battle, but more so me beating someone else at their own game -- being strategic and playing chess," he says. "It was a blessing. It feels like I went through four years of school of hard knocks and learned from it. I sat back, studied and learned, and when it was my time to strike, I did."
Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters