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The HISTORY of Freestyle Part 2 of 4


Captain Casual
Staff member
Freestyle.FM Dee Jays
The HISTORY of Freestyle.

By the spring of 1986, Freestyle was exploding in New York clubs. New York radio however, was not impressed. Nor were radio stations around the country. With the exception of HOT 105 in Miami, and Power 106 in Los Angeles, who made the first singles by TKA, Nayobe, and Expose #1 hits in South Florida and Southern California respectively, radio station program directors ignored Freestyle.

Power 106 (KPWR) and Hot 105 (WQHT) were pioneers of a new type of station that were starting up in early 1986 - crossover radio. These were CHR stations that leaned heavily toward Dance music. The target audience for Power 106 and Hot 105 was the large English-speaking Latin population of these two cities. The success of those stations brought attention to the large hole left in New York radio when WKTU signed off the air three years earlier. On August 13, 1986, WAPW, a fledgling CHR station in New York, changed its call letters to WQHT and switched its format to that of its sister station in L.A. (Power 106). WQHT (Hot 103) began playing much of the hits by TKA, Sweet Sensation, and Expose in the same rotation as Pop superstars like Michael Jackson and Madonna.

Freestyle tracks like TKA's "One Way Love" 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. Freestyle was now getting national attention.

Despite the renewed interest in the older Freestyle tracks, these artists were already releasing their follow-up singles. In the fall of 1986, Sweet Sensation released "Victim of Love" and TKA released "Come Get My Love," a raw, more club-oriented and less pop sounding record than "One Way Love." It set the tone for a new crop of Freestyle records produced by Mickey Garcia and Elvin Molina that were released in late 1986 and early 1987, including "I Won't Stop Loving You" by C-Bank and Judy Torres' follow-up single "Come Into My Arms."

Both of these tracks became huge hits in a new club called Heartthrob, which opened up in the old building that had housed the Funhouse. The owners of Heartthrob were able to convince Little Louie' Vega to leave the Devil's Nest to play at the new club. At around the same time a new club, 1018, opened a half a mile away and directly competed with Heartthrob, often outbidding each other for the exclusive performances of Freestyle artists. The demand for Freestyle was so great that both clubs prospered and the artists wound up performing at both clubs, often on the same night.

In early 1987, Sa-Fire also released her follow-up single, "Let Me Be The One." Like "Come Get My Love," this song was a departure from the sound of her first single. It proved to be a welcome one as the song outperformed its predecessor in chart performance and sales.

The Cover Girls second single "Spring Love," again a departure for them, didn't fare as well. They were, however, able to bounce back in a major way with their third single. "Because Of You." The song, produced by Louie Vega and Robert Clivilles and written by David Cole before the latter two went on to become mega-producers with C&C Music Factory, became perhaps the favorite Cover Girl song of all. It reached #24 on the Pop charts and top 10 on the Dance charts in the spring of 1987 and propelled their debut album to nearly gold status.

"Like A Child" was the second single from Noel. "Silent Morning" was a tough act to follow, and although it did not match the success of "Silent Morning," it set the pace for his successful self-titled debut album. Joyce Simms, although not Hispanic, was enjoying the distinction of having the first Freestyle record to cross over into the R&B market with the classic "(You Are My) All and All." It was also one of the first Freestyle records to crack the European market.Although Freestyle was still in its early stages, it was fast becoming dance music for the 80s.

By the summer of 1987, WQHT (Hot 103) was on top of the ratings in New York, and it was their heavy emphasis on Dance music, especially Freestyle, that got them there. The success of Hot 103 broke down the walls for Freestyle at the mainstream station WHTZ (Z-100) in New York, which was one of the most influential Top 40 stations in the country at the time.

When Z-100 started playing the biggest Freestyle hits happening on Hot 103, other mainstream stations around the country followed. Power 96 in Miami, whose playlist was loaded with the latest Freestyle tracks, rose to the top of the ratings in Miami, as did Power 106 in Los Angeles, following the same formula. Soon after, another city - Chicago - came on board.

Through the exposure of club D.J.'s and a college station called WCRX at Columbia College, Freestyle began making noise in the Windy City. Clubs like the Riviera and venues like the Navy Pier Ballroom began throwing Freestyle jams with performances by Sa-Fire, TKA, and the Cover Girls.

In June of 1987, TKA released their third straight hit single, "Scars Of Love," the title track from their first album. The album would go on to become a Freestyle classic, spawning six hit singles. The fourth single, "Tears May Fall," was played as an instrumental on a bootleg tape in clubs for over a year before it was released in November 1987. This streak of hit singles earned them their title "Kings of Freestyle."

The fight for the title of "Queens of Freestyle" was more competitive. The Cover Girls' third single was the ballad "Promise Me," another hit for them. "Inside Outside," their fourth and final single from the hugely successful "Show Me" album brought them back to the clubs in a big way and continued their hit streak. But the abundance of female artists in Freestyle as well as the fact that the Cover Girls would be taking time off to record their second album, left the door wide open for someone to step in and swipe their title.

India, whose real name is Linda Bell Caballero, made brief appearances with TKA in their early shows. Although she never sang on any of their singles, she did record a version of "Dancing on the Fire" with TKA and performed it at a few of their shows. When India decided to record on her own, she took the idea to remake Jellybean's "Dancing on the Fire" with her. Jellybean, reproduced the track (without TKA) and released it as her first single.

Nayobe, along with India, was one of the most gifted female vocalists in Freestyle. She proved this with her slamming performance on her fourth single, "Second Chance for Love."

Corina began her successful career in Freestyle with the song "Out of Control," which was also the first hit to producer Carlos Berrios. Tina B., then the wife of producer Arthur Baker, returned to the music scene with "January February." Tina had a big hit a couple of years earlier with "Honey to a Bee," an electro-hip-hop classic.

Debbie Harry, formerly of the 70's and 80's new wave band Blondie, who is probably as far from a Freestyle artist as you can get, came up with one of the biggest cult-classic Freestyle records ever with "In Love With Love," thanks to the additional production and remix by two also unlikely Freestylers, Justin Strauss and Murray Elias. They took an otherwise tired pop dance record and turned it into a moody yet slammin' Freestyle club jam.

Another big Freestyle club record that came from an unlikely source was "Arabian Nights" by the Latin Rascals. The track was taken from the "Bach to the Future" album, an album of classical pieces set to dance music. The song was originally an instrumental, but when the track received extensive club play, the Latin Rascals re-recorded the song with vocals and released it, making it the first song recorded by the Latin Rascals as artists.

They had already made a name for themselves as one of the busiest producers and remixing teams in Freestyle, producing cuts for the Cover Girls, Sa-Fire and TKA among others.

This period in Freestyle saw many artists developing their own style and sound, although most of the hits were being produced and performed by the same handful of people who originated the sound of Freestyle. The floodgates, however, would open in the coming year, as many artists and labels jumped on the Freestyle bandwagon.
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Either in 1986 or 1987 I remember Camden County College's radio station 91.5 would play Freestyle on the weekends. A Philly radio station would mix in Freestyle with Top 40 back then also, but that station eventually died ( I can't even remember the station #) and Q102 was born. Q102 still played some Freestyle ever once in a while... but was more geared to Top 40, Pop, R&B, and some HipHop.
Small clubs in Jersey kept Freestyle going back then - such as Omar's, The Winslow House, The Rennaisance Room, KaddidleHopper's, and a few clubs down the shore. Even the roller skating rinks picked it up - Skater's Choice and Franklinville Skating Rink - as early as 1986!
in MedellĂ­n, Colombia, the freestyle music heared only in a radiostation called "Veracruz Stereo ", and only plays on weekends. More late, appeared some dj's that began to plays freestyle in disco's and parties. A popular Dj in this season was Dj Bum.