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The HISTORY of Freestyle Part 3 of 4

DaUnknownAdmin

Captain Casual
Staff member
Administrator
Freestyle.FM Dee Jays
#1
The HISTORY of Freestyle.
From "FREESTYLE GREATEST BEATS" Vol. 1-10
PART 3

In late 1987 and early 1988, major labels jumped on the Freestyle bandwagon. Virtually any Freestyle record that received airplay on Power 96 in Miami, or on Hot 103 in New York was picked up by a major label. Sa-Fire signed to Mercury. India to Reprise, Sweet Sensation and Corina to Atco, Cover Girls to Capitol, and TKA's next album, although on Tommy Boy, was distributed through Warner Bros.

Meanwhile in South Florida, the "Miami sound" was also garnering attention from major labels. Company B, Stevie B, Linear, Will to Power, and Exposé's later hits defined this form. Many labels confused New York Freestyle and Miami Freestyle, thinking they had the same audience. They thought their promotional strategy would work for both genres, which resulted in skipping the all too important step of cultivating a record at the street and club level before going to radio. This often led to poor results for the New York-based Freestyle. New York Freestyle, even in its most polished forms, retained a raw edge and underground sound, using minor chords that made the tracks darker and more moody. The lyrics also tended to be about unrequited love or other more somber themes, dealing with the reality of what inner city teens were experiencing emotionally.

Miami records on the other hand, tended to be more optimistic, using major chords similar to those used in early disco giving them a more upbeat sound. This is probably why the Miami records fared better at mainstream Pop radio than New York Freestyle. Some Miami artists like Stevie B, after doing their first shows in the New York market, saw the difference and began using the Miami sound combined with New York Freestyle, often with successful results.

Also in early 1988, Louie Vega moved to yet another new club. The old Studio 54, the most famous club of the Disco era, reopened as the new main club for Freestyle. Roman Ricardo, meanwhile, continued to D.J. at 1018 while Baby J was the D.J. at Roseland. All three clubs remained packed. Other D.J.'s in New York who were instrumental in breaking Freestyle at this time were Juan Kato at L'Amour East, Scott Blackwell at 4-D, and Gungie Rivera at La Mirage and Chez Sensual. These D.J.'s were important because whatever Freestyle records became big for them, were usually the next Freestyle records that would make it to Pop radio across the country. However, this was not always the case. Two records stand out as songs that were huge hits in clubs, and favorites of true Freestyle fans, but were somehow overlooked by radio. These were "Don't Take Your Love Away" by Lydia Lee Love and 'You'll Never Find Another Love" by & More.

"Mirage" by Jellybean featuring India was Jellybean's return to his roots as a D.J. at the Funhouse. After two Pop offerings from his 'Just Visiting the Planet' album, Jellybean wanted to tap into the fans he had made with "The Mexican." "Mirage" is a totally re-recorded song with India on vocals, and was the B-side to the 12" of "Just a Mirage."

Sa-Fire followed two previous hit singles with "Boy I've Been Told," her first outing for Mercury Records and her first big Pop hit. Sweet Sensation released "Never Let You Go," their biggest club hit. Judy Torres returned to her trademark sound after the disappointing response to her previous single - the Pop radio-minded 'Love Story." The comeback, "Love You Will You Love Me" was exactly what the fans wanted and put her back into the spotlight. TKA made it six in a row with "Don't Be Afraid" the final single from the "Scars of Love" album. The track had been played in clubs for months as an album cut, and Tommy Boy had intended to only release it promotionally to clubs. However due to the club response, a few radio stations picked it up and Tommy Boy eventually released it on 12' commercially.

In the spring of 1988 Cynthia, from East Harlem in New York City, released her first hit single, "Change On Me." It would be the first of many hit singles she would release that would make her one of the biggest selling solo female singers in Freestyle and one of Freestyle's most popular female performing artists. By 1989, Freestyle was at its peak. That year saw many established Freestyle acts releasing new quality releases as well as many promising new artists releasing their first singles.

One of the best of the new crop of artists was George Lamond. Born in Washington, D.C. and raised in the Bronx, George's first love was graphic arts but after numerous amateur performances at local talent shows and hanging out in the Freestyle clubs around New York, George knew he wanted to be a singer. His first single, "Bad Of The Heart," was originally released on the independent label Ligosa Records, with the artist credited as Loose Touch, of which George Lamond was the lead singer. The song did well in its first release but Ligosa, being a small independent label, lacked the resources to give the record the exposure it deserved.

The owners of the label, Mark Liggett and Chris Barbosa, who were also the producers of the song, decided to shop George to a major label. Columbia Records signed George and released "Without You," his second single. Columbia Records then re-released "Bad Of The Heart," now with the artist credited as simply George Lamond and the song became a smash reaching the Top 30 on the Pop charts. George became an instant favorite among Freestyle fans with his powerful voice and energetic performances.

Another artist who made another impressive debut was Coro with "Where Are You Tonight." Coro, who had spent the previous few years in the Stevie B. camp in Florida, relocated to New York and signed to Cutting Records. Despite the amount of time he spent in Miami, the influence on his music was definitely New York. The success of "Where Are You Tonight" prompted yet another major label, Virgin, to pick up its first Freestyle artist from an independent label.

Freestyle favorites Sa-Fire, TKA, The Cover Girls, Sweet Sensation and Cynthia continued their hit streaks in the summer of '89. "Love Is On Her Mind" (The Latin Rascal Remix) was Sa-Fire's follow-up to the Top 20 smash "Thinking Of You," her first ballad. Sadly, her record company, Mercury, decided not to work the song at radio, but many of the stations that supported her previous songs made the record a moderate hit for her. "You Are The One" by TKA was from the motion picture "Lean On Me." The soundtrack, which was released by Warner Bros., never took off, nor did the movie. However, a few key stations discovered the song months later and Tommy Boy released it on 12". It eventually became one of TKA's biggest Pop hits up to that time, and also appeared on their second album, "Louder Than Love."

"Take It While It's Hot' was the title track to Sweet Sensation's highly successful debut album. Of the eight cuts on the album, five were released as singles. The Covers Girls' second album marked their debut on Capitol Records. Their first single for their new label, "My Heart Skips A Beat," reunited the Girls with the producer and writer of their smash "Because Of You"- Robert Clivilles and David Cole respectively. The results were just as impressive as their first pairing. The record regained The Cover Girls' clout at Top 40 radio.

Tony Moran broke from his longtime partnership in The Latin Rascals to record an album for Cutting Records to showcase his production talents called "Concept Of One." The album featured familiar artists such as Noel and Brenda K. Starr as well as some newcomers. It also featured two songs with Tony on lead vocals. One of those songs, "Dance With Me," became his first hit as a solo artist.

Cynthia also returned that summer with "Dreamboy/Dreamgirl," a duet with labelmate Johnny 0. The song would become the biggest selling single for both artists. Pajama Party, yet another three-member, Latin female Freestyle group, had one of the biggest Freestyle hits of the summer with "Yo No Se." Ironically, it was the first and only Freestyle hit to date with a completely Spanish title.

Despite the great number of hits that summer, it was at about this time that the Freestyle backlash and downfall began. House music and rap were gaining in popularity and beginning to find slots on radio playlists. Crossover radio. which had achieved its primary goal to secure the listenership of the English-speaking Latin community, now was seeking to expand its audience. Hispanic artists were gradually being replaced by a wave of new Dance/Pop and R&B/Crossover groups such as Paula Abdul, Milli Vanilli, Bobby Brown and New Kids On The Block, all of whom were enjoying massive exposure on MTV. The success of these groups would play a key role in the downfall of many of Freestyle's biggest artists.

The period between the second half of 1989 and the beginning of 1991 were perhaps the worst of times for Freestyle. Crossover radio had found new stars in Paula Abdul, Milli Vanilli, New Kids On The Block, Bobby Brown and Hammer. These artists were successful not only on crossover stations but R&B stations as well. They also received massive exposure through video on MTV and BET. These slickly produced artists and videos now defined "crossover". For the first time crossover radio was breaking songs that their rival stations (R&B and Top 40) were also playing. Previously, an Urban record would first break at the R&B stations, then the crossover stations, then finally the Top 40 stations. Now, urban records by many established stars were simultaneously breaking at all three formats.
 
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mhz_1973

DOFCH.COM
DOFCH.COM
#2
I remember rushing home from school to watch Dancing On Air, which eventually changed to Dance Party USA. Many Freestyle artist performed on their stages, such as Sa-Fire, Cynthia, George Lamond, India, Laissez Faire, Johnny O, Nayobe, and Sequal (to name just a few!). It was great! Eventually though, that show crumbled too =(
 
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