FREESTYLE: An Oral HistoryBetween 1983 and 1990, you couldn’t go to a roller rink, Sweet 16 or nightclub without hearing the addictive strains of freestyle. Sometimes called Latin hip hop or Heartthrob, its Roland bass, effervescent minor-key synth melodies, and Latin-influenced percussion infected urban teenagers from New York to Miami to Chicago to L.A. Its lyrics were the perfect soundtrack to tormented high school romances while the sounds of whips, laser beams, machine-gun stutters and pitch-shifted vocals explored the limits of the new electronic beat machines. Freestyle songs said one thing: regardless of how heartbroken or lovesick you might be, you better get out on the dancefloor.
History of FreestyleWhat is Freestyle? In order to answer that question you'd have to go back as far as the death of Disco back in the early 80's. Disco was Pop music in the late 70's and one of the biggest radio stations in the country was Disco 92 (WKTU-FM) in New York. Disco 92's core audience was made up primarily of Hispanics and Italian Americans. When Disco faltered in the early 80's, so did WKTU's ratings. In a move to bolster their sagging ratings, WKTU changed their format (and eventually their call letters) to a more mainstream pop format and eventually to rock. Another station cross-town, WXLO (99X) also was changing its format. By 1981, 99X changed to 98.7 KISS-FM, an urban station hoping to chip away at WBLS' stronghold on New York's African American audience. In 1983, WHTZ (Z100) went on the air to take on WPLJ for the mainstream, primarily white audience abandoned by WKTU. Through all these format changes, one demographic - the huge Hispanic audience in New York went - overlooked. Most Latins opted for KISS-FM and WBLS, who did play the occasional club record, but other Latins found an alternative to hear new music. They went underground
Forever Freestyle 9If you spent the 80s and 90s dancing at nightclubs around New York City and you weren’t in the Bronx on March 7th, you need to read further and make plans to be at next year’s event! We went to Forever Freestyle 9 and couldn’t figure out why we haven’t been to the previous 8 shows. Eva Bornstein, the Executive Director of Lehman Center along with Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records put on a production that had the 40 and over crowd partying harder than anyone else in the audience. And, yes, there were younger folks present
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Forever Freestyle would not be the same if it were held any where else besides the Bronx. Aside from the fact that the genre was born in the borough and many of the acts are from the Bronx, the audience made the show. Mr. Abbatiello brilliantly facilitated a true Bronx crowd in true Bronx fashion. We sang, we danced and we partied!
Nocera opened the night and gave us summertime in this brutal winter. The sexy Lisette Melendez followed with together forever and got the crowd in the right mood and ready for The Cover Girls who blew the doors wide open and turned the night into a party! The only act that could follow up appropriately was the Freestyle Diva, Judy Torres who received a hometown welcome from her hometown crowd. Rob Base then took us into intermission on a high note.
The show opened up after intermission with Soave who charasmatically kicked off the second half of the program. Noel came after to a warm welcome but decided to tease the crowd, our personal favorite part of the night was Coro who is obviously a natural entertainer and had us singing until we almost lost our voice when the Sugar Hill Gang came on. They were exactly as you would expect and did not, could not, disappoint. It was a perfect set up for the final two acts, George Lamond whose surprisingly came out singing Journey and left us with some latin flavor (with some bad of the heart in between). The final act of the night needed no introduction and likely what everyone came to see. They made us wait (and gave Speedy some gear in the process) but TKA/K7 closed out the party; at which point, no one was left in their seats and everyone was singing MARIA!
Almost 5 hours long and we could have done another 5 hours given how much fun it was. Sprinkled in-between the acts were breakdancing bits, Speedy Gonzalez dancing with the audience and other madness that could not happen anywhere else besides the Bronx.
The show gave us a new appreciation for the Boogie Down and the unique culture that we need to experience more. We will be back and can’t wait to see our next show at Lehman Center!
Thank you to newyorkeventsco for the article
PEOPLE Weekly: The South Bronx Was Getting A Bad Rap Until A Club Called Disco Fever Came Along
Lehman Center For The Performing Arts – Fever Re-Union
LEHMAN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS presents
38th Anniversary of the Legendary Bronx Nightclub Disco Fever
OLD SCHOOL HIP HOP CONCERT
Celebrating Bronx 44th Annual Bronx Day where Hip Hop was born
and kicking off for the Bronx Week festivities!
Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in association with Sal Abbatiello of Fever Records celebrates the 38th Anniversary of the legendary Bronx nightclub Disco Fever with a night of OLD SCHOOL HIP HOP: Fever Re-Union Throw-Back Concert on Saturday, May 9th, 2015 at 7pm. In the early 1970’s the Hip Hop musical genre was born in the neighborhoods of the South Bronx. The Fever Re-Union concert will feature performances by KURTIS BLOW “The Breaks,” ROB BASE “It Takes Two,” SUGARHILL GANG “Rappers Delight,” BIZ MARKIE “Just A Friend,” GRANDMASTER MELLE MEL & SCORPIO of THE FURIOUS FIVE “The Message,” SOULSONIC FORCE “Planet Rock,” SWEET G “Games People Play,” MC SHAN “The Bridge,” FEARLESS FOUR “Rockin It,” T-SKI VALLEY “Catch the Beat,” SPYDER-D “Smerphies Dance,” SPOONIE GEE “Spooin’ Rap,” BUSY BEE STARKI “Running Things” and More Groups to be announced. Hosted by SAL ABBATIELLO and DR BOB LEE. Music by DJ MARLEY MARL, DJ HOLLYWOOD and DJ BRUCIE B. Produced by Lehman Center and Sal Abbatiello.
If you tell an average person you love freestyle music, you’ll likely have them scratching their heads, or possibly asking you about the art of rapping off the cuff. But to a large amount of Latinos and other club-going people who grew up in New York City and Southern Florida during the mid to late 1980’s, freestyle music was an unavoidable part of pop culture, a great source of pride to the Hispanic population, and, twenty years later, is still looked upon with a dewy-eyed nostalgia often reserved for musical movements on at least a national level.
So what exactly is freestyle? A quintessential answer comes from Judy Torres—a former singer who now runs a freestyle show on NYC’s WKTU—during a 2006 interview with The Village Voice:
“Freestyle songs are like really dramatic Spanish soap operas—being in love, breaking up, catching someone cheating on you—intense and passionate, slightly overdramatic.”
Fueling these musical telenovelas was pop music that fused the electro hip-hop sound with Latin rhythms and melodies, and featured young, untrained (often female) singers telling tumultuous tales of love won and lost. Before Reggaeton, Ricky Martin, and Jennifer Lopez, freestyle was the musical voice for young English speaking Latinos.
Mass Appeal March 2007
Mass Appeal March 2007