Freestyle music was born when Disco died. In the NYC club scene, many Latinos found themselves left out of the Hip Hop movement, a culture that was saturated with pioneers and innovators of Latino descent. Their response was to create a musical movement that incorporated electronic dance music with funk and even rap with "novela" types stories of love and heartbreak.
April 20th will forever be known as the day that Freestyle Music finally took the main stage at Madison Square Garden in NYC. An honor that many say is way over due especially since a whole generation of teenagers growing up in the 80's packed clubs like The Devil's Nest, Roseland, Studio 54, 1018, Palladium, Heartthrob and L'mour East faithfully every weekend.
The crowd at Madison Square Garden had the opportunity to rekindle their love for the genre as Ralph Mercado Presents reunited some of the biggest and brightest stars of this music phenomenon. The Freestyle Explosion was hosted by comedian Joey Vega with the help of Dj Lucho as well as several popular radio personalities from La Mega 97.9 and WKTU. Grammy Award winning producer DJ Lil Louie Vega was even there to reminisce on the movement and what it has meant to him in his successful career. The all star line up of performers included K7 of TKA, Cynthia, Stevie B, Johnny O, Lisa Lisa, Cover Girls, George Lamond, Noel, Coro, Nice 'n Wild, Shannon, and Judy Torres.
Lisa Lisa, the Latina credited with the first crossover Latin Freestyle hit took the stage with a live band. The crowd went crazy and reminisced as they joined her in singing songs like "I wonder if I take you home", "Can you feel the beat" and "Head to toe". One of the highlight's was Lisa Lisa wrapping up one of her all time greatest hits, "All cried out" and inviting her niece and newborn baby on stage so that she can tell her husband that they were expecting another child. She also shared a song from a new recording that will soon be released.
Other great performances included Judy Torres one of the biggest stars of the freestyle movement has stayed relevant through out the years both as an artist (yes she has a new album) and as the host of the "Freestyle Free For All" on the new incarnation of WKTU. Her performance reminded her fans that there truly is no reason to cry as she will not be going anywhere soon. Her vocals and her energy is what Freestyle is all about...she maintains that she is still "Chunky but funky"
George Lamond, former member of Loose Touch has also stayed relevant and like La India has made the transition from Freestyle to Salsa. In a highly anticipated performance, he revisited his freestyle roots with songs like "Without you" and "Bad of the heart". He has truly evolved as a performer and if his fans reaction to his performance means anything…he will be around for quite some time.
K7 of TKA, one of the hottest groups in Freestyle history gave an incredible performance that highlighted a medley of hits. Songs like "Scars of love", Tears may fall" and "Maria" are often credited as being the first song that started many fans deep rooted love with this genre. The concert was fantastic and I cant wait to see what comes of it...we have seen time and time again what happens when Ralph Mercado puts what the people want on stage.
I leave you with the words of a very energetic Johnny O…(who by the way seems to have really missed the stage).