Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Freestyle Forever

Freestyle Ground Zero: The Funhouse on 26th St.
               Ah, Freestyle. The sound of unrequited love in a melodramatic lyrical form sung over electro beats as performed by mostly hispanic/black kids from NYC's 5 boroughs circa the 1980's & early '90s. Just like other regional musical sub-genres, such as Washington DC's go-go scene, Freestyle never broke out on a national scale. Clubs like the Funhouse, the Saint, L'amours East; played host to a vibrant subculture that staked out a unique identity with its own fashion & rituals that stood out in stark contrast to that other "inner city" phenomenon taking place simultaneously: the nascent Hip-Hop scene.
                Hundreds of local 12"s were released with hit single potential, major labels started sniffing around & found Freestyle performers that could be groomed for the big leagues, local radio stations played the hell out of their material with a rabid fan base that was expanding outside of NYC; everything seemed ready for Freestyle to crossover on to a major scale & then...things fizzled out. 
                Whether it was the ascendence of other dance genres like House/Techno, the reluctance of major labels to promote an urban-centric sound or even the stylistic limitations of the music itself; we'll never really know what caused Freestyle to implode & become a cherished musical memory for people of a certain age.
              I've done this top ten list as a tribute to those times & for my wife who is the Freestyle Queen. So, get those silk dress shirts on with the pleated pants & rolled up cuffs. Slip into a pair of Capezios, style that hair with Aqua Net. Spray yourself with a dash of Dakar & finish off the look with a stylish long black leather trench coat.

My Top Ten:
   A classic  by Noel that embodies all the melancholic qualities of the genre. After a loud night, all you're left with sometimes is a...

Cynthia is one of the undisputed queens of Freestyle that went back to a regular 9 to 5 job once the spotlight faded, like so many in this music.

 No Freestyle list would be complete without Tony, Kayel & Angel!

I saw Nayobe perform this in 1985, at a roller skating rink in Queens, great memories!

Coro acted in tons of episodes of Miami Vice before starting his Freestyle career which still continues to this day, god bless him.

Brooklyn born & Miami raised diva Debbie Deb sang this haunting tune that has been sampled to death. If there's any kind of justice out there, she's received royalties, we can only hope...

Watch this video for the clothes, dancing, old NYC footage & of course; the charismatic Mr. Lamond. Baffles me why he didn't become a Megastar.

There were many Freestyle girl groups & the Cover Girls were the torchbearers. If you're a female & grew up listening to this music, you know the dance moves for this song like the back of your hand.

Judy Torres is one of the few performers to successfully transition from the Freestyle era to House music & other dance genres that continually update her profile to newer audiences, kudos!

This stone cold classic by Lisa Lisa was a huge hit in the pop market & seemed to herald a Freestyle invasion that sadly didn't happen. I always remember a high school buddy of mine dropping out to become a back up dancer for her. I wonder whatever happened to him...

Those are my favorite tracks, any Freestyle connoisseur would probably disagree & substitute their picks, but we can all agree this song by Shannon laid down the foundation, so much so, that Freestyle was also called the "Shannon Sound" in the beginning. This along with Afrikkaa Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" & Jellybean Benitez's "The Mexican", are the main components that kicked off the party.

See you all at the annual Freestyle reunion concert held at Madison Square Garden!

1 comment:

  1. Great top 10, Freddy! It's amazing how as I got older a few of these songs became cherished memories for me, and I tracked them down- mainly on cassette in the 90's! I wasn't really into Freestyle in the 80's, but I remember the music by osmosis through hanging with school and neighborhood friends and being forced to hear the songs seven million times. From what I've heard the only other city to develop a Freestyle scene was Miami, which I suppose makes sense. Also, Italians in Brooklyn in the 80's loved Freestyle, whether they admit it or not! haha