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The HISTORY of Freestyle Part 4 of 4


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

At the same time Freestyle had become a four-letter word. Freestyle producers looking to make a quick buck often recruited young Hispanics from clubs, regardless of talent, to record hastily put together songs and put them out on the track show club circuit. They figured even if only one station played the song, they could make a thousand dollars a night doing shows and split it with the artists. The splits usually favored the producer. A flood of horrible Freestyle records resulted that even the most devoted fan would be ashamed of. This only fueled the Freestyle bashing and downfall. Latin artists were now perceived as untalented street kids recording sappy love songs with overly used chord progressions and off-key vocals. Crossover radio became all too aware of this perception by their audience and responded by gradually eliminating Freestyle from their playlists.

This seriously hurt the more established Freestyle artists. Unfortunately, these artists responded by abandoning the Freestyle sound on their new singles, a move that would help seal Freestyle's fate. Artists such as TKA, Sa-Fire, Sweet Sensation and the Cover Girls, felt they needed to try to duplicate the sound that was now happening at radio and MTV in order to compete with pop music's new megastars. All of these artists released singles in 1990 that did find a new audience (in most cases, not a very large one) but totally alienated their core audience. TKA with "I Won't Give Up On You" and Sweet Sensation with "If Wishes Came True" actually achieved their highest charting pop singles with these tracks. However, R&B radio and more importantly MTV ignored their success. For the most part Freestyle's biggest stars were unable to move on to the next level with their new sound.

With the best artists abandoning the sound and new artists recording inferior tracks, Freestyle was all but over. Fortunately, TKA, playing it smart, had recorded two Freestyle tracks on the "Louder Than Love" album (the same album that contained "I Won't Give Up On You"). They were able to rebound by releasing these two tracks in 1991. The first release was "Give Your Love To Me". It was one of the first Freestyle records to use hip-hop loops.
Another artist that utilized hip-hop loops and almost single-handedly revived Freestyle was Lissette Melendez from East Harlem. "Together Forever" would define "new school" Freestyle. The track is exactly what Freestyle needed: a new sound without abandoning the elements that made a song Freestyle. The release of this single should have inspired Freestyle producers to experiment and try new ideas. Unfortunately it only inspired imitations, none of which would equal the vibe and energy of "Together Forever."

It was the flood of imitations that lead TKA to release something that was far from "new school" but certainly not old school. The song was "Louder Than Love," the title track from their second album It would become TKA's signature song and the biggest hit of their career. George Lamond followed up his smash "Bad Of The Heart" with two hit singles during Freestyle's rebound "Without You" and "Look Into My Eyes." All three songs were included on his hugely successful first album, "Bad Of the Heart." Coro also released his sophomore single "Can't Let You Go," which easily matched the success of his first single.

Three old school artists returned after long absences with new tracks. Noel's guest spot on the Concept of One album resulted in his first hit single in three years with "The Question." The Cover Girls released a double A-side single with "Don't Stop Now" and "Funk Boutique." Corina teamed up with the producer of "Together Forever" - Carlos Berrios - and came up with the highest charting Freestyle record on the Billboard Hot 100 to date. "Temptation" had a sound similar to that of "Together" but it was the songwriting of Frank Reyes that helped the record transcend the scores of Lissette Melendez imitations. After a near death experience, Freestyle seemed headed for a complete recovery.

With its sudden resurgence in 1991, Freestyle again seemed healthy and poised for a comeback. However, the comeback would be short-lived. In late 1992, Hot 97 in New York, Q102 in Philadelphia, Power 106 in Los Angeles and many other crossover stations completely pulled all Freestyle records from their playlists to move in a more Urban direction. These stations were responsible for more than half of a Freestyle record's potential sales. There were still a few stations playing Freestyle but not enough to make a song a national hit. Many major labels knew this all too well and began dropping Freestyle artists from their rosters.

Before the mass exodus of these stations, a few key releases sent Freestyle off with a bang.The Cover Girls released "Funk Boutique," the B-side of "Don't Stop Now." It would set them up for the release of their first album for Epic Records titled "Here lt Is." It was their third label in as many albums. The first official single from that album was the remake of the Rose Royce ballad "Wishing On A Star." Despite it being The Cover Girls biggest hit, they were dropped from the label a few months later.

Coro's third single, and the second released by Charisma Records, was "My Fallen Angel." It would also be the biggest hit of his career and ironically, he was dropped from his label soon after. He would continue to record under his original label Cutting Records. Corina followed up the highest charting Freestyle record ever ("Temptation") with the equally slammin "Whispers," only to be dropped by her label after just one follow-up single (the aptly titled -"Now That You're Gone").

Cynthia returned with "Love Me Tonight," her most street-oriented cut and the first single not produced with Mickey Garcia and Elvin Molina. Many felt this single was the change in direction she needed to compete with the "new school" sound that was emerging. It was also the last release for MicMac Records (not counting the re-release of older tracks from her first album). Cynthia was not dropped from her label but won a battle with her label to be released from her contract.

George Lamond released his second album, "In My Life" for Columbia Records. The first single from that album, "Where Does That Leave Love," proved just as popular as his previous releases. The follow up singles from that album "I Want You Back" and "Baby, I Believe In You," which were not Freestyle releases, did not fare as well. For months after, George's status at Columbia was on hold until he finally was released in 1993.

Aside from the veteran artists, a few new artists and two that had not been around for more than 5 years released hit singles in 1992. New artists Laura Enea and Nyasia released "This Is The Last Time" and "Who's Got Your Love," respectively. The tracks were heavily influenced by Lissette Melendez' trademark sound. Another artist who borrowed a little from that sound was Giggles with "What Goes Around, Comes Around," produced and written by Charlie Rock, the writer and producer of the Cynthia/Johnny O. duet "Dreamboy/Dreamgirl." It was the first big hit for her, since "Love Letter" back in 1986.

Lil Suzy's big hit "Take Me In Your Arms" was not her first single. "Randy," a song recorded when she was just seven years old was her first release on Fever Records. "Take Me In Your Arms" was recorded at the ripe old age of 15. Voyce, a Puerto Rican male trio from Brooklyn released "Within My Heart." The inevitable comparisons were made to TKA, but they proved themselves as performers in their own right. The song was produced by Carlos Berrios and Angel Lebron, one of the members of the group. The future of the group would have been more promising had they not come out at a time when Freestyle was in a tailspin.

1992 also saw the break-up of two of Freestyle's biggest groups. Sweet Sensation began the year by replacing members Margie and Sheila with three new members. The remaining original member Betty Lebron would again be the featured vocalist of the newly formed group. The new version of Sweet Sensation did a few shows but in the two and a half years since have not released any new material. It was thought that Betty would eventually go solo.

At the end of 1991, Tony, Kayel and Angel (TKA), despite coming off the biggest hit of their career "Louder Than Love," decided to part ways to record solo albums. They each wanted to try experimenting with new music but felt they could not do that as TKA. Their fans expected them to continue making the music they had for the previous seven years and the guys were unsure of how they would react to a new sound. There were also differences of opinion between the group about what direction that would be. The only solution was to do separate albums. They decided to continue doing shows while they prepared to record new albums and not announce that they were breaking up.

Kayel had begun recording his first solo album. He had about three songs completed when he felt that he did not want to end TKA without doing one more song. He went to the other guys with the idea of releasing a greatest hits compilation and including a new song. TKA's Greatest Hits was released in February of 1992 with 14 songs. It included all of their single releases, as well as "I Can't Help It," "Is It Love" and "Maria." "I Can't Help It" was a cut from the "Louder Than Love" album that got extensive play even though it was not released as a single. "Is It Love" was a duet with Tony Moran that was to be included on his first solo album that was never released. "Maria" was actually a song recorded for Kayel's solo album, but he decided to release it as the last song from TKA. The idea really paid off. The fans loved the album and "Maria" became a huge hit. The album itself actually outsold their first two studio albums. TKA's last performance together was on Oct. 11, 1992.

As 1992 came to an end, so did the Freestyle era. As with Disco in the seventies, Freestyle never truly died. Freestyle records continue to be released, just as dance records continue to flourish in different forms despite the "death of disco" in 1980. But the days of the Devil's Nest, Heartthrob, 1018 and the new Studio 54 are gone, just as the days of thee-piece suits. Saturday Night Fever and the old Studio 54 are gone. Disco and Freestyle captured a certain feeling that reflected the times they flourished in. They produced their own stars, their own dances and their own fashions. Most of all they produced songs that will bring back great memories for the people who experienced it. Hopefully the Freestyle classics included in this compilation will do that, and as with Disco, endure, and be discovered by new fans in the years to come.

Note: At the time of this printing, George Lamond, Corina, Sa-Fire, Cynthia, and the Cover Girls were recording new material for release on new labels. Lissette Melendez continues to record for RAL/Columbia. Her second album "True To Life" spawned the Top 40 Hit "Goody Goody." Kayel of TKA released his first solo album "Swing Batta Swing" under the name K7 and received his first gold record.


New Member
Freestyle.FM Dee Jays
great post...I love reading all the history of freestyle! I dont know a great deal about the artists, their history, and the "where are they now" stuff...always fascinates me :)
it's a shame to see freestyle fade out. That was the only genre of music that had good dance beats, great lyrics and it was upbeat. Not like today's hiphop and rap that's all about hate, murder, etc. Thankfully I live in the ny metro area and I'm able to listen to Judy Torres on KTU where she does a freestyle program. And I am most thankful that I found your website to listen to freestyle 24/7.


New Member
Freestyle.FM Dee Jays
that story was great.but,you left out india. she had a good song dancing on the fire her only american album
what's going on with freestyle???

I've been a Dj since I was 15yrs old and I remember when my brother and his friends introduced me to freestyle a few years earlier. I remember the feeling of knowing that this sound at the time wasn't like anything I had heard before and all I knew was that I wanted to become a part of that movement in one way or another.....I was prode of the fact that latinos were making waves in the mainstream and I wanted to help push that along.....Now a days we have reggaeton, rap, ect...but I believe that if we were to push a newer form of freestyle out there the people will eat it up, we miss freestyle and in a sense it's never died. It lives on in other forms of music such as r&b, techno, rap, and even in some reggaeton music. I know freestyle isn't dead but lieing dorment waiting for the opportunity for someone to wake it back up. It might be old school to us, but for the youngsters that never heard it before and start listening to it, they're just as addicted to it as we were..... there's got to be a come back......at least I hope.....if not....then it's wishfull thnking......much luv.....u know da.....Dj Phantom(Detroit)......1
I grew up in the 90's dance/freestyle era and i really enjoyed that type of music. Throughout the past number of years, rap/r&b have become the mainstream for music. I have not followed the norm. I enjoy a few songs now and again, but in my heart, dance/freestyle will never die. Freestyle is a very unique type of music that can only be appreciated by certain people. Young teens these days don't want to hear music regarding love, heartache, betrayal etc...they prefer the more hardcore rap about thugs etc. *Shakes head* I will stick with Cascada for now.

Luckily, the legend of freestyle, Stevie B has made a comeback and has released great new freestyle songs. He's starting the comeback...hopefully others will follow. :)


New Member
freestyle music is the best of the best, here in Colombia is not heared very much... but some people like me we love freestyle music... we are very AFORTUNADOS for to have this site to us.