Monday, March 28, 2011

Latin Freestyle

I cannot believe how long it took me to get around to this one. I guess the timing is a little weird now (in light of a recent bit of Twitter drama wherein some clueless kids apparently hated on Diplo because "only Latinos and gay people are allowed to play Freestyle"). Kids these days...

Anyway, Freestyle was a genre of dance music that evolved out of the Latino communities in New York and Miami in the 1980s. But first, some backstory:
Part of the reason why disco did so well in New York was that it appealed to African-Americans, Italian-Americans, and Latinos. This meant that during the heyday of disco, a radio station could lock down all three of these huge demographics—something that you'd be hard-pressed to do today. After the "death" of disco, stations had to pick which of these audiences they wanted to retain. A lot of New York stations kept the Italians by switching to rock, and the rest hung on to the African-Americans by gradually shifting to hip-hop / R&B / "urban" music. This left New York's sizable Latino community without many options for radio stations, or for pop music that spoke to them.
Freestyle really emerged as a response to this conundrum--championed by Latino DJs like Jellybean Benitez and Tony Torres, Freestyle first popped up around 1983 as a mixture of pop melodies and hip-hop-electro production (think Afrika Bambaataa meets Celine Dion). 

The music found a second home in Miami, and these two cities produced the overwhelming majority of Freestyle records from the birth of the genre until it fizzled out in the mid-1990s. The New York stuff tends to be a little darker—male and female singers singing about heartbreak with a lot of minor chords in the background—whereas the Miami stuff is a little more on the cheerful side, and features mostly female vocalists singing about falling in love and what not.
Freestyle eventually went way beyond its Latino audience, and became one of the dominant sounds of Top 40 radio in the 1980s. I've focused more on the huge radio mega-hits in this mix (because they're more fun), but I've tried to balance it out with a chunk of underground club tunes as well. Hope you enjoy it!


  1. Wish feat. Fonda Rae; Touch Me (Chrissy Re-Edit) (KN Records, 1984)
  2. Break Machine; Street Dance (Record Shack Records, 1983)
  3. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam; I Wonder If I Take You Home (CBS, 1984)
  4. The Flirts; You & Me (CBS, 1985)
  5. Denise Lopez; If You Feel It (M+M Mix) (Vendetta, 1988)
  6. Pretty Poison; Catch Me (I'm Falling) (Svengali, 1987)
  7. Shannon; Give Me Tonight (12" Version) (Emergency, 1984)
  8. Alé; I Wanna Know (Original Club Mix) (Vendetta, 1988)
  9. Exposé; Point of No Return (12" Version) (Arista, 1985)
  10. Taylor Dayne; Tell It To My Heart (Arista, 1987)
  11. Information Society; What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy) (Tommy Boy, 1988)
  12. Connie; Funky Little Beat (Sunnyview, 1985)
  13. Debbie Deb; When I Hear Music (Jampacked, 1983)
  14. Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam; Can You Feel The Beat (Columbia, 1985)
  15. Shannon; Let The Music Play (12" Version) (Emergency, 1983)
  16. Tiana; Tell Me Why (Chrissy Re-Edit) (MicMac Records, 1990)
  17. Rochelle Fleming; Love Itch (Prelude, 1985)
  18. The Jets; Crush On You (MCA, 1985)
  19. Company B; Fascinated (The Summer, 1986)
  20. Prototype; Come Back To Me (1990 Remix) (Pandisc, 1990)
  21. Exposé; Come Go With Me (Arista, 1986)
  22. Planet Patrol; Play At Your Own Risk (Tommy Boy, 1982)
  23. Debbie Deb; Lookout Weekend (Jampacked, 1984)
  24. Jaya; If You Leave Me Now (LMR, 1989)

    15 comments:

    1. "in light of a recent bit of Twitter drama wherein some clueless kids apparently hated on Diplo because 'only Latinos and gay people are allowed to play Freestyle' "

      man people need to get their gay homophobia out of here with that hate shit. real talk ese!

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    2. Im glad this twitter drama forced you to do a give us a little historical breakdown on the background of freestyle. Great perspective!

      Thanks!

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    3. I wish you had more of this stuff. The mix of Expose Point of No Return sounds somehow different, mainly the vocals sound slightly "off key" or something. Is the pitch altered or was it a special recording? Just curious. Thanks for all these mixes!!

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    4. i know you didn't post my question i put in here, wanted to ask you personally but i have no idea how to do that. just hope you didn't see the post as spam.

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    5. not sure which question you're talking about! I get a lot of comments here and I try to be good about moderating all of them but some of them fall through the cracks...

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    6. oh, i uploaded some freestyle song i heard on the radio during some mix and no one online seems to be able to ID what the track is. i just assumed cause i added a link in the post it wasn't shown.

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    7. ooooh...sometimes posts with links in 'em automatically get caught in the spam filter. Try re-posting it?

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    8. i guess to by-pass i put it as my "URL" in my name here to post. its a box.net link. so just click my name here and it should take you to the stream.

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    9. clever!
      I listened, and I don't know it. Anybody else recognize the clip?

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    10. yo chrissy, this is great! and great release on mu btw...

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    11. Your blog is outrageous, but this mix finally got me round to punching keys. I love how a grip of these cuts still maintain.

      Speaking of gays and latinos, no Stevie B?

      viva la Memorex dbs!

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    12. woah, it's that vocal from foul play - richochet! and I've only been listening for 5 seconds!

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    13. Thank you
      Brought memories from Ft Lauderdale Spring Break

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    14. This is Just Simply Amazing!!..you nailed d The majority of the mainstream hits that Freestyle Brought Us back in The Day!!...Your Description of Freestyle is Another Head-on that kids Nowadays, wouldn't understand by a mile!

      Great Work & Sincere Respects from an Old Timer that Lived it Through!!

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