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Pitbull on Reimagining Toto’s ‘Africa’ for ‘Aquaman,’ Collaborating With Blake Shelton

The music star will be honored with a hands and feet imprint ceremony in front of Hollywood's TCL Theater.

Pitbull is rarely at a loss for words. But admittedly, even the dapper rapper couldn’t find the right ones to describe his feelings about his latest career milestone: his very own hand and footprint ceremony at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. (After 90 years on Hollywood Blvd., the historic theater will open a second location in San Diego, where the artist born Armando Christian Perez will grace a grand opening event later today.) The Grammy winner has made an indelible mark in American culture, so it’s only fitting that he leave behind a last impression in the so-called Forecourt of the Stars in Hollywood. While some superstars talk about themselves in the third person, Mr. Worldwide prefers the first-person plural — an abbreviated reference to Team Pit, no doubt. Variety caught up with him on board a private jet (‘natch) en route to play a secret show in New York City.

You’ll be the third Latin celebrity to secure permanent real estate in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre. What does that mean to you?
It’s a true honor and there’s not even words to explain what it is to be a part of something so iconic — to be able to leave your legacy one way or another in Hollywood. A good friend of ours, John Travolta, hit me up with a message saying: “They better put you next to me.” So for John Travolta, with everything that he has contributed to Hollywood and to film and the icon that he is, to be able to hit me up with a message like that? It’s priceless.

Did you ever visit there as a tourist when you came to L.A.?
Oh, yeah. That was one of the first places I ever went when I went to L.A. to record for “2 Fast 2 Furious,” which was actually made in Miami. Lil Jon and John Singleton gave me an opportunity to be a part of the soundtrack and a part of the score, so when I went to L.A. for the first time, they put me up at a hotel right behind there. I had a chance to walk up the block and check that out. I was in awe. I couldn’t believe it, especially with all of the amazing names and iconic figures. So to be able to be a part of that — and be a part of history and create a legacy like that? I’ll repeat it again: There are no words to explain it. Also, I don’t think I’ll be able to take it all in until I get out there. And even after that, it’s going to take me I would say about three or five shots to really let it come in. For me to be able to embody that.

Aside from hopefully Travolta, who else will you be next to?
I have no clue to be honest with you. Actually, when we got the Hollywood star [offer], I held out for about three years because I wanted it to be by Celia Cruz, the queen of Cuba and someone that we look up to — may she rest in peace, or in paradise, I should say. And we had a chance to get that Hollywood star around Celia Cruz, but on this one, it just happened so fast and everything that we’ve got going on —  getting to be a part of the “Aquaman” soundtrack and what a blockbuster that’s going to be — so we said: Let’s take it on. We’ve got business partners involved in something else that we’ve got opening in San Diego, which is called the Theatre Box with the Sugar Factory and a restaurant called ilove305 [opening next Spring], and they were actually the guys that put us down with this. So it worked out and once again, it’s an honor and there are no words to describe what the feeling is and what the feeling is going to be when I’m there. And I’m looking forward to the surprise of seeing who I am next to and in between.

Will you write your actual name, Armando, or Pitbull or Mr. Worldwide or Mr. 305 in the cement?
There’s too many names to put down there but I’m definitely going to try to squeeze them all in, I’ll tell you that much.

You must own so many fabulous shoes, but are you prepared to sacrifice a pair to the wet cement?
Whatever shoes I wear that day, I’m definitely going to leave them there. They can have those, too, if they like, OK? The good thing is that when you’re able to go put your foot prints in cement, and they’re not cement blocks on your feet and then you get thrown in the river? Everything is working out, let me tell you.

You have new music in the “Aquaman” soundtrack. Have you also been working on tracks for another album?
We’re looking at something mid-year, second quarter. At this point we’re lining everything up. We have the record with the soundtrack which is called “Ocean to Ocean.” You’ll like the sample: “Africa” from Toto. That’s going to be fun. We also have a record with Ludacris and an artist called Prince Royce that’ll be coming out also. And the fun part is that around Spring we have a very serious record coming out with Blake Shelton that I think is going to be a stadium mover. It’ll be able to bring all worlds together from the country world to the pop world to the rhythmic world and the Spanish world. That really embodies what music is — being a universal language.

You’re also going to voice Ugly Dog in the animated movie “Ugly Dolls” next year. Do you have any acting ambitions beyond this film?
We have a lot of things that are being lined up. The animation as far as “Ugly Dolls” has been a great partnership. We’re Ugly Dog/Slick Dog, so you’ll be able to see a transformation in the animation. We also have a song for that we’re working on. So it’s all coming together and that’s coming out in May. As far as being involved in other Hollywood projects, yes, we’re looking at that, not only in front of the camera but also behind the camera. For me, I’m more about the business and the partnerships and creating a franchise. And we’re talking about a franchise right now as we speak. Which I think would be a lot of fun and it’s something that’s needed in Hollywood right now. I can’t disclose that information but we have our eyes on it.

What is your new year’s resolution for 2019?
When it comes to education, we have now 10 schools with 10,000 kids in it. So I would say for next year my resolution would be to be up to 20 schools with 20,000 kids in it.

You’re turning 38 next month. What else would you like to accomplish before you hit 40?
Bottom line, my goal is always to show people the power of music and how that can unite people instead of divide people. And the society that we’re living in right now, everybody’s about instant gratification and they’re more about negative news rather than positive news. So if we can continue to put out music that brings people together instead of separating them, that to me is always the major accomplishment. Because that leads us to be able to do things like education and really help those that really need it and those that really crave and starve and take advantage of opportunities. So with that said, as always the major goal is utilizing music to the best of its ability to bring everybody together.

How did you feel about ranking at No. 8 on the Forbes list of “Hip-Hop Cash Kings” — accurate?
There’s something I learned in the streets that a good friend of mine taught me: Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. And with that said, they can put up whatever they want to put up. I’m  not necessarily proud when they put up any numbers — I don’t like anybody knowing what we do and what we don’t do. We’re the kind of people that, for me, I don’t live for society’s metrics. How can I put this to you? Let me think about it real quick. [pause] Boom! I don’t live for numbers. I live for happiness. I live for the ride. Because at the end of the day, no matter what number we bring in or what we acquire, we can’t take it with us. I like to be under the radar, I like to be low-key, and I like to be off the grid. So they can think what they want to think. [Laughs]

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