Notable performers in the Freestyle genre include Stevie B, Shannon, Cynthia, Collage, Lil' Suzy, Sa-Fire, Johnny O, Joée, Judy Torres, Information Society, Exposé, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, India, TKA, Corina, Nocera, Company B, The Cover Girls, Noel, Pajama Party, Shana, Will to Power, Sweet Sensation, Seduction, Linear, George LaMond, Lisette Melendez, Laissez Faire, Coro and Rockell.
The music first developed primarily in the Latino communities of New York City in the early 1980s. Initially, it was a fusion of synthetic instrumentation and syncopated percussion of 1980s electro, as favored by fans of breakdancing. It was also influenced by sampling, as found in hip hop music. Key influences include Soul Sonic Force's "Planet Rock" (1982) and Shannon's "Let the Music Play", which was a Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit in early 1984. Several Freestyle songs were in the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1987, including "Come Go with Me" by Exposé, "Show Me" by The Cover Girls, Company B.'s "Fascinated" and Noel's "Silent Morning".
Why Freestyle music is actually called "freestyle" is subject to speculation. Some feel the term may refer to the mixing techniques used by DJs spinning this form of music (at least in its pre-house incarnations). Freestyle's syncopated beat structures demanded that DJs get creative, incorporating aspects of both electronic and hip-hop techniques; they often
It is a genre with rather clear features: a dance tempo with stress on beats two and four; syncopation with a bass line, lead synth, or percussion, with optionalstabs (provided as synthesized brass or orchestral samples); sixteenth-note hi-hats; a chord progression that lasts eight, 16, or 32 beats and is usually in a minor key; and relatively complex, upbeat melodies with singing, verses, and a chorus, with themes about love or dancing. Freestyle music in general is heavily influenced by Latin music, especially with respect to rhythms and brass-horn and keyboard parts. The Latin clave rhythm can be felt in many songs (such as in the defining Clave Rocks by Amoretto). The tempo of Freestyle music is almost always between 110 and 130 beats per minute (BPM), typically around 118 BPM. The keyboard parts are often elegant and clever, with many short melodies and counter melodies, again a strong influence from Latin music. It also features complicated drum-machine patterns that a human drummer would have extreme difficulty playing. Most lyrics involve breaking up or someone leaving another for the wrong reasons.
Many people cite 1983's Let the Music Play by Shannon as being the genre's debut hit. However, others contend that Afrika Bambaataa, with his hit release "Planet Rock," conceived Freestyle's first child. The track was, indeed, frequently earmarked as the first freestyle song produced. However, Let the Music Play eventually became freestyle's biggest recording, and it still receives frequent airplay through radio and other venues. The song was produced by Mark Liggett andChris Barbosa, who changed and refined the electro funk sound, adding Latin American rhythms and a syncopated drum-machine sound.
WIOQ (Q102) in Philadelphia, WPOW (Power 96) in Miami, KPWR (Power 106) in Los Angeles, WBBM (B96) in Chicago, WQHT-FM (when it was Hot 103.5) in New York, and XHRM-FM (Hot 92.5) in San Diego began playing hits by artists like TKA, Sweet Sensation, and Exposé, Sa-Fire on the same playlists as Pop superstars like Michael Jackson and Madonna. Tracks like TKA's One Way Love, " Sa-Fire's Don't Break My Heart and Sweet Sensation's Hooked On You received new life and the success of these tracks as well as the just-released Show Me by the Cover Girls helped get them added to stations around the country. "(You Are My) All and All" by Joyce Sims became the first Freestyle record to cross over into the R&B market. It was also one of the first Freestyle records to crack the European market. Although still in its early stages, Freestyle was now getting national attention, and was fast becoming dance music for the '80s.
In the early 1990s, several Freestyle acts emerged from the metropolitan Philadelphia, PA area (South Philadelphia; Camden, NJ; Trenton, NJ; Delaware County PA, etc.). Artists such as D.T.U. (Doin' The Ultimate), Full Afekt, Denine, Marré, The DuLaio Twinz, Sammy C, Tōn-Dé-Jon, Jamie, Angela Garcia, Nu-Evo, Divine Aire, Orlando, Jade, Equils-2 and T.P.E. (The Philadelphia Experiment) enjoyed regional success and many saw regular airplay on Philadelphia's FM radio station Q102 (WIOQ 102.1 FM).
In 1993, the guys from D.T.U. (Anthony Ponzio and Anthony Santosusso) teamed-up with DJ Mike Ferullo to form Tazmania Records and T.P.E.'s Adam Marano would go on to form Viper-7 Records. Both record labels would eventually lead the resurgence of the Freestyle music genre in the mid-1990s. Behind the scenes, Rob Federici and the Polygon recording studio were a major factor in the sound and success of both Tazmania and Viper Freestyle releases. Also in the mid-1990s, Philadelphia based DJ Steve "Mr. Miami" O'Neill opened Gecko Records (later known as Gekko Records). As Freestyle saw another rough patch later in the 1990s, Tazmania shut down while Viper 7 (now known as the Viper Music Network) changed focus to cover a broad spectrum of music genres.
In the late 2000s, Freestyle began to see yet another resurgence in popularity. New Freestyle music from older, well known Freestyle artists, producers and record labels was being released. Live shows featuring Freestyle artists new and old were popular weekend attractions at Philadelphia area bars and night clubs. A major factor being Steve "Mr. Miami" O'Neill's near-weekly shows at Northeast Philadelphia's Roosevelt's On The Boulevard Bar & Grill (formerly known as The Route 1 Cafe) creating a huge upswing in the region's Freestyle music scene.
Although Freestyle's main territory was New York and Miami it did have a recognizable following in California, particularly on Los Angeles radio stations KDAY AM-1580 and Power 106, on San Francisco Bay Area stations Hot 97.7, KMEL and 107.7 KSOL (now Wild 94.9),and XHRM-FM (Hot 92.5), in San Diego.
By 1987, Freestyle was at its peak on Top 40 Radio. By the early 90s, Freestyle was disappearing from the radio air waves with radio stations such as Hot 103.5 turned Hot 97 starting a trend of changing their format to Top 40 music only. While the artists of the music such as George Lamond, Exposé, Corina, Sweet Sensation and the Stevie B continued to play on mainstream radio, other notable Freestyle artists did not fare as well. Carlos Berrios almost single handedly appeared to have saved the apparent demise of the music by creating a new sound, along with another writer, producer, Frankie Cutlass, used on Temptation byCorina and Together Forever by Lisette Melendez. Both songs released almost simultaneously were not only embraced by Top 40 radio but gave Freestyle a much needed resurgence in 1991 with Temptation going to the number 6 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 Charts. However, before its decline in 1990s, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, one of the first freestyle acts to get behind the microphone, began to make it big on the freestyle scene. Their records were produced by Full Force, who also made UTFO's music and even once worked together with James Brown. The music of Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam was less electro and more pop, and that was also probably the reason why artists such as Corina, Stevie B, Seduction, Sweet Sensation and the Cover Girls were able to crossover into the pop market. Cross-over influences became even more evident with greater fervor when The Latin Rascals produced a remix of Duran Duran's "Notorious" and The Pet Shop Boys' hit smash,Domino Dancing produced by Lewis A. Martinee, who produced many of Expose's hits.
MicMac Records is recognized as one of the pioneer record labels in Freestyle music, known for bringing artist such as Johnny O, Cynthia, Nyasia, Tiana, Soave and Clear Touch to the Freestyle scene. In 2004, MicMac Records relaunched and introduced new school Freestyle hits to the open market. The CDs were titled Then and Now. Following a success with the CDs the label released three more in the years following and remains active to date promoting many live performances mainly in Miami Florida which is known for having a large Freestyle following. In New York City the popularity of Freestyle's emergence have not gone unnoticed, there are several clubs and lounges that host performances on a regular basis. There are also online radio stations such as http://freestyle.fm/ who broadcast 24/7 and allow listeners to scroll through an open library and request songs to hear. Onna Roll records whose Nasty boys and Donna Williams hits were more main stream although What I'm Feeling was the most played single in one day on WKTU at the time getting 63 plays, Big Al former president of Onna Roll does a freestyle night in NY still to this day.