Sometimes, in the midst of all the globe-trotting that we do in the course of our musical investigations, it’s nice to focus on something a little bit closer to home. World, (re)meet freestyle. Born in the Bronx, and pumping from speakers in New York, Miami, and L.A. (among other places) freestyle was THE Latin-American music of choice throughout the 80’s. Well before Shakira, J.Lo, Ricky Martin and Mark Anthony (not to mention Reggaeton and 3Ball) broke open the charts, freestyle established the basis for a new type of Latino-pop music; a second generation synthesis that was simultaneously rooted in traditional Latin rhythms and the newest musical styles and technology. Emerging from the same sonic stew that birthed hip-hop, freestyle evolved in an entirely different direction, coming to offer its listeners a music that mirrored their own generational and cultural experience, and becoming what has been termed “the Salsa of the 80’s.”
Unfortunately, freestyle never really received its moment in the sun, and as a result, has been forgotten by much of the musical world since its late 80’s heyday. We hope to explore more of its background, development, and place in New York’s (and America’s) musical history in the future. For now though, here are a couple of tidbits (and one sick mixtape) to whet your appetite for the style.
Be prepared though- this may involve up to 75 times your average daily dose of drum-machine.
Formed by Fever Records owner and general freestyle impresario Sal Abatiello, The Cover Girls (Angel Sabater, Caroline Jackson, and Sunshine Wright) were one of the genre’s more popular early groups.
Released in 1986, this song was one of the definitive freestyle hits, helping to cement the style’s basic direction.
Freestyle’s impact was arguably as much the result of its innovative production as its performing stars. Masters of the razor-blade edit, the Latin Rascals were legendary for their mixtape skills, influencing later generations of music-splicing DJ’s and producers.
Enormous stars, TKA were among freestyles most popular performers.
And finally, from DJ Chrissy Murderbot’s “My Year of Mixtapes” blog-