For third album “The Boatlift,” Miami rapper Pitbull makes an earnest effort to bridge the gap between the two regionally specific sects of hip-hop that converge on his city: Caribbean-infused Reggaeton from Puerto Rico to the south, and crunk from his Georgia neighbors to the north. Unfortunately, he fails to convincingly inhabit either genre. Weighed down by too many heavy-handed bids for dancefloor dominance, “The Boatlift” sinks quickly.
A polyglot wordsmith with a commanding, hungry delivery, Pitbull is most engaging when rapping with minimal accompaniment. “The Boatlift” starts off strong with passionate a cappella intro “A Little Story,” only to flounder immediately after in a flood of twitchy would-be club bangers that simply die in the sub-woofers. Much of the blame here can be placed on an overabundance of somnolent guest stars, especially Lil Jon on the ambitiously titled “The Anthem,” which isn’t much of one.
Energy crests on the Latin-oriented tracks, such as the frenetic “Fuego,” with assistance from Puerto Rican hitmaker Don Omar. Yet the oft-hinted connection between Pitbull’s Cuban heritage and contemporary hip-hop remains frustratingly underexplored. Equally frustrating are the rapper’s sincere and relatively insightful moments of social commentary, which lose their punch when juxtaposed with by-the-numbers odes to mindless decadence, particularly the dreadful “Stripper Pole.”