When Pitbull picked up the first Dick Clark Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2017 Latin American Music Awards in October, he had a few choice words to share with the audiences at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood and watching from home via Telemundo. “Don’t ever forget that immigrants built the United States of America,” he said after performing with Fifth Harmony, then accepting the award from presenter Enrique Iglesias. “They should be building more schools instead of building a wall, if you know what I’m talking about.”

Pitbull knows what he’s talking about when it comes to building schools, but his outspokenness may have cost the rapper Fox network’s telecast of his annual New Year’s Eve party in Miami. He persisted with party plans with the tenacity of the canine he’s named after, ending a year that saw him releasing a greatest-hits album, undertaking a successful tour with Iglesias and offering his private airplane to shuttle cancer patients out of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The SLAM! charter school program he founded continues to prepare students for postsecondary studies and careers in sports leadership and management.

Leadership and management are what helped Armando Christian Pérez rise from the streets of Miami, where he was born to parents who migrated from Cuba. He learned English from watching Sesame Street, an early influence on his bilingual rapping style. His father had him reciting Cuban poetry in bars by age 5, and by the time he hit his teens he was soaking up hip-hop and learning the lessons of rap from Chuck D, Eric. B., Slick Rick, Nas and Jay-Z. It was Jay-Z, along with motivational speaker Tony Robbins and the discipline picked up from studying martial arts, that gave him the extra edge and confidence to become not only a hip-hop musician, but a business mogul.

His talent for rapping is what opened the doors of opportunity, though, starting in earnest when Miami rap godfather Luther Campbell showcased him in rap battles. The doors opened to his first album M.I.A.M.I. in 2004, featuring the club smash “Culo.” He spent the rest of the 2000s building his recording career and making guest appearances before breaking huge in 2011 with a guest turn on Jennifer Lopez’s “On the Floor” and his first No. 1 hit “Give Me Everything.”

Pitbull also maximized his brand, endorsing a slew of products from beverages to cosmetics, and released his own fragrance and vodka. He has his own television company and SiriusXM radio channel, and his tour with Iglesias was one of the highest grossers toward the end of the year. Now he’s focused on his Las Vegas Time of Our Lives residency, which he’s performed 24 times and is scheduled to extend by 13 shows by the end of the year. What’s next for Mr. Worldwide? His investor group may have lost out on being involved with the Miami Marlins thanks to Derek Jeter’s winning bid, but don’t be surprised if Pitbull winds up owning his own professional sports team.