Freestyle is a style of music you’ll hear regularly here on The Beat over the weekends with our Retro Dance Classics weekend specials
Freestyle is part of Chicago’s dance music heritage. Take a look at a sold out Valentine’s Day show back in 2015 from Big Z Productions featuring Stevie B and others.
The focus for this feature today is a look back for a look at not only the history but the music that made the genre part of music history. Our very own DJ AZE is our resident Freestyle DJ who brings you the best of it all on all his past mixes HERE.
Latin Freestyle or Freestyle music, is a form of electronic dance music that emerged in the New York metropolitan area in the 1980s. Originally termed ‘Heart Throb’, Freestyle experienced its greatest popularity from the late 1980s until the early 1990s. It continues to be produced today and enjoys some degree of popularity, especially in urban settings. A common theme of freestyle lyricism is heartbreak in the city.
Many may say that Afrika Bambaatta W/Soul Sonic Force’s 1982 monster street jam “Planet Rock” (on Tommy Boy Records) was the first ‘Freestyle’ song. It sure was a foundation for Freestyle music. Their use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine laid out the beats of the sound with a sample from Kraftwerk’s 1977 disco jam “Trans Europe Express” while the Japanese counting part “Ichi, ni, san, shi” was used in YMO’s “Rap Phenomena” (1981) and Kraftwerk’s “Numbers” (1981). “Planet Rock” also features a brief synthesizer arrangement of the whistling melody from Ennio Morricone’s For a Few Dollars More soundtrack.
So now there’s a foundation and it was that foundation that was interpreted to create what even more would consider the first ‘real’ Freestyle song “Let the Music Play” by Shannon. Produced by iconic U.S. Dance Music Hall of Fame duo pioneers Mark Ligget & a Bronx-born reporting DJ from WKTU named Chris Barbosa.
In 1983, an executive from Emergency Records named Sergio Cossa, (who, along with dance music industry icon and U.S. Dance Music Hall of Fame member Curtis Urbina) signed Barbosa to do production work with the record label. They turned out Shannon hits including “Give Me Tonight”, “Do You Wanna Get Away”, a cover of Foreigner’s “Urgent” and more. They also produced Nolan Thomas’ “Yo Little Brother” which featured a classic 80’s video you’ll remember (or maybe you missed it) below.
Eventually, the two would form their own label signing [then unknown] George Lamond (as Loose Touch with Lamond’s cousin Joey Kid), Monet (My Heart Gets All The Breaks) and more.
Some of the biggest names in Freestyle include Alisha (All Night Passion, Baby Talk, Too Turned On), Stevie B (Spring Love, Party Your Body, Because I Love You, I Wanna Be The One, In Your Eyes), Corina (Give Me Back My Heart, Temptation), Lil Suzy (Take Me In Your Arms), George Lamond (Bad Of The Heart, Without You, Where Does That Leave Love), Cynthia Change On Me, Endless Night, Dreamboy/Dreamgirl etc.), Johnny O (Fantasy Girl), TKA (Scars Of Love, Louder Than Love, X-Ray Vision etc), Noel (Silent Morning), Company B (Fascinated, Full Circle), Exposé (Point Of No Return, Let Me Be The One, Come Go With Me etc.), Debbie Deb (When I Hear Music, Lookout Weekend), Brenda K. Starr (I Still Believe), Sweet Sensation (Take It While It’s Hot, Love Child, If Wishes Came True, Sincerely Yours), The Cover Girls (Show Me, Because Of You), Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam (I Wonder If I Take You Home, Can You Feel The Beat etc.), Information Society (What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy) etc.), Pretty Poison (Catch Me I’m Falling, Nighttime etc.), Sa-Fire (Boy I’ve Been Told, Let Me Be The One, Don’t Break My Heart etc.), Coro (Where Are You Tonight, Fallen Angel), Lissette Melendez (Together Forever, A Day In My Life Without You), produced by Carlos Berrios who would reshape a whole new ‘freestyle’ sound by bringin’ some funk into it all, Judy Torres (Come Into My Arms, No Reason To Cry etc.) Rockell (In A Dream, I Fell In Love etc.) and many others. Chicago even got into the scene as House label DJ International released “Forever Amour” by D’Zyre (Troy Guy and Angela Salazar) which wound up being picked up by Atlantic Records (below).
Today, the founders of Freestyle enjoy touring around the U.S. and territories where the music was most popular including Chicago, Miami, NYC, California, Texas, Philly, Canada, Greece, the UK and more.
Indie labels known for mega Freestyle hits included Mic Mac, Cutting Records, Metropolitan, Profile and others. Majors would jump on board, as they always do, late. Those labels included Atlantic Records who signed the massive 1986 hit “Diamond Girl”. Interesting story about that song… David Torres, Reggie Pierre and Remy Palacios were the original members. The original vocals were never performed by the performance group but rather lip synced. David Torres did sing the Spanish parts after completing vocal training. The final record track was recorded by John Minnis and the origination demo vocal was performed by David L Cook. Many believed that Stevie B was the original vocalist of the song, but that proved to be false. The song was written and produced by Joe Granda in 1986.
Chicago’s CONCORD MUSIC HALL is one of the many places you can find great Freestyle concerts in the Chicago area.
Enjoy an amazing concert from 2014 featuring Shannon, Debbie Deb, Expose’ and more below.
Listen to Freestyle music playing in many of the mixes we feature each weekend on our Friday Night Jams and Saturday Night Live Ain’t No Jive Chicago Dance Party. Click here for mixes
Source: WikiPedia and The Beat Staff