In the early 1980’s, Freestyle music was first introduced to the United States when artists from impoverished communities, mostly in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, came together to create the unique sound. Combining electro, syncopated percussion and synthetic instrumentation along with vocals, Freestyle became a genre of music like no other; so it’s no surprise that today, successful freestyle artists are now referred to as legends.
But, just what are some of the most legendary artists involved in and up to today? New Theory was lucky enough to have the opportunity to find out!
Vote on your favorite Freestyle Music Legend below!
Steven Bernard Hill is an American record producer, songwriter, and singer who was influential in creating freestyle music. Stevie B is best known for hits such as, “Party Your Body,” “Spring Love,” “I Wanna Be the One,” “Summer Nights,” “Pump that Body” and “Girl I am Searching for You.” His singles often reached the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 2013, Stevie B remixed his hit “Spring Love” which featured popular artist Pitbull.
Juan Orlando, also known as Johnny O, is a singer known for his many hits in the Freestyle music genre. Popular hits include “Fantasy Girl,” “Highways of Love,” “Runaway Love,” “Memories,” “We Can’t Go On This Way” and “Dreamboy/Dreamgirl,” featuring vocalist Cynthia. Currently, Johnny O is signed to Bug City records and works on new material, including a Christian album. He resides with his family in Florida.
Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
Lisa Velez emerged with her band, Cult Jam in New York City during the 1980’s Freestyle movement. They are best known for chart topping hits like, “Can You Feel the Beat,” “Lost in Emotion,” “Head to Toe” and “I Wonder if I Take You Home.” Later, the band broke up and Lisa Lisa went on to pursue her dreams as a solo artist releasing an album “Life ‘n Love” in 2009.
The Cover Girls
The Cover Girls is a Freestyle music girl group that enjoyed success on the Top 40 Billboard, Hot 100 Hits and the U.S. Dance Chart during the late 1980’s and the early 1990’s. They are best known for their chart-topping singles such as, “Show Me,” “Because of You,” “Spring Love,” and “Promise Me.” Throughout the years of their success group members came and went, often replacements were made quickly. The group reached the height of their success with the song “Better Late Than Never,” which was part of the Coming to America film soundtrack. In November 2015, the group Cover Girls were featured in a Legends of Freestyle documentary that premiered at the HBO Urban Action Film Festival in New York City.
Jeanette Jurado, Ann Curless, and Gioia Bruno are the members of the American Freestyle vocal group Exposé. The group experienced their success between 1984 and 1989. “Seasons Change” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, along with four other top ten hits from their debut album. Exposé toured and continued to record music from 1985 to 1995, ending with their last public performance in 2003. In January 2015, Exposé was surprised to learn that record label, Cherry Pop Records, re-issued the group’s debut album. Due to the re-release and interest in their music, the group continues to tour and perform to this day.
American Freestyle vocalist Lisette Melendez began her rise to fame with her 1991 hit “Together Forever.” The hit reached #35 on the Billboard Hot 100. The songs “Together Forever” and “A Day in My Life” were partly responsible for breathing life back into the Freestyle Music genre in the early 1990’s. In 2015, Melendez performed her hits at the I Love Freestyle Vol. 1 Live Concert in Buffalo, New York.
American artist Shannon Brenda Greene is a dance-pop, Freestyle music singer, and songwriter. She is best known for her hit single “Let the Music Play.” Shannon’s other hits include, “My Heart’s Divided,” “Give Me Tonight,” and “Sweet Somebody.” In 2007, Shannon released her fifth studio album, “A Beauty Returns.” Today, she occasionally performs and is a voting member of the Grammys Recording Academy.
In 1986, Company B was created with group members Susan Gonzalez Johnson, Charlotte McKinnon, and Lori Ledesma. Group member Charlotte McKinnon was replaced by Lezlee Livrano. Later, Susan Gonzalez Johnson was replaced by Sheena. In 1989, there were more changes with group members. The group’s hit single “Fascinated” was a hit on local radio stations in Miami and soon reached the airways in all major cities within the United States. The song reached #1 On the U.S. Hot Dance Club Play chart and #21 on the Billboard Hot 100. In 2006, Company B regrouped with members Susan Gonzalez Johnson, Charlotte McKinnon, and new member Rachel Leslie. They released new music and performed extensively. By 2013, Company B group members changed again, with Susan Gonzalez Johnson and two new additional members.
George Garcia, also known as George Lamond, is an American Freestyle music singer. During his career, spanning between 1989- 2014, he released seven albums. George is best known for his smash hit “Bad of the Heart,” which was released in 1989 and reached #25 on Billboard Top 100 chart. George has numerous other hit songs such as, “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Que Te Vas,” “I Want You Back,” and “Baby, I Believe in You.” In 2013, George released the single “Bringing My Love Down.” He introduced new material in October 2014 at the Resorts World Casino in New York City, which included new salsa and English songs from his newest album released in early 2015. Currently, George revealed that not only is he “working on a new single with Frankie J and Little Louie Vega,” but he’s also “recording a salsa album.”
Wilma Cosmé, also known as Sa-Fire is a freestyle artist who achieved pop chart success during the Freestyle music movement. Due to her success with songs such as, “Let Me Be the One,” “Don’t Break My Heart,” “Boy I’ve Been Told” and “Thinking of You,” she is known as one of the most prominent representatives of Freestyle music. Her awards include three Desi Awards, six New York Music Awards and a writing award from ASCAP. In 2013, Sa-Fire performed with other Freestyle music artists at a concert at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The concert was so popular with fans that the artists were forced to add a second concert date.
This Latin freestyle were prominent in the music genre during the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Original members included Tony Ortiz, Louis Sharpe, who went by the name “Kayel” and Alejandro “Aby” Escoto. Tension was experienced within the group and Aby was replaced by vocalist Angel “Love Vasquez. Fans of freestyle still refer to the group as the “kings of Freestyle.” TKA is known for hits such as, “Tears May Fall,” “Give Your Love to Me,” and “Crash.” In 2001, the group reunited and released an album named “Forever.” Today TKA still performs together and concert venues and events. K7 continues TKA legacy today with his reformed and new TKA. “We have a brand new album called ‘Love Goes On.’ It’s on iTunes now.”
Freestyle music artist Noel Pagan is responsible for releasing one of the most popular freestyle songs in history. The song “Silent Morning” played on radio stations throughout the United States and ranked #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and was a Top 10 hit on the dance singles chart in 1987. Noel’s other hits include, “Like a Child,” “Change,” “Out of Time” and “Hearts on Fire.” In 2007, Noel released a single “I Feel Alive.” Currently, Noel resides in Ridgewood, New York.
Freestyle singer-songwriter Rachel Alexandra Mercaldo, also known as Rockell, had major dance hits such as “When I’m Gone,” “In a Dream,” “I Fell in Love,” and “Can’t We Try.” In 2000, Rockell released her second album “Instant Pleasure. In 2001, the single “What U Did 2 Me” ranked #101 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In December 2012, Rockell released the single “Turn Up the Heat,” which included new sounds including high vocals and rap.
Trinere Veronica Farrington, also known simply as Trinere, is a Miami bases singer-songwriter who released dance hits in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Her hits included, “All Night,” “I Know You Love Me,” “Can’t Get Enough,” and “How Can We Be Wrong.” Today, Trinere continues to perform at events and concerts, often with freestyle artists such as Stevie B and Lisa Lisa. She also collaborates with her Miami Marci, who is her son Brandon Christopher, and released an album titled “Timeless.”
Timmy Torres, also known by his stage name Timmy T, started out in small rap groups in Fresno, California. Soon he found his way into Freestyle music and his hit song “One More Try” was the #1 single on the Billboard Hot 100. Timmy T released other hits such as, “Time After Time,” “Over and Over,” “One More Try” and “Paradise.” Today, Timmy T is responsible for putting together shows that exhibit Freestyle artists and continues to perform at concerts and events.
American dance-pop and freestyle singer Cynthia Todino is best known for her hit Dreamboy/Dreamgirl, a duet with vocalist Johnny O. Her studio albums include Cynthia, Cynthia II and Thinking about You. Singles such as “If I Had the Chance,” and “Break Up to Make Up” ranked on the Billboard Hot 100 three times, both singles reaching #53 on the chart. Cynthia’s other singles include “Change on Me” and “Endless Nights.” In 2005, Cynthia collaborated with fellow Freestyle artist Lisette Melendez and released “I Can’t Change Your Mind.”
Latin Freestyle singer Coro first started his career starring in episodes of television shows such as Miami Vice in the 1980’s. In 1987, Coro was a backup dancer and vocalist for Freestyle artist Stevie B. After touring with Stevie B, Coro moved to Manhattan and began creating his solo singing career in the Freestyle genre. In 1989, he collaborated with music producers Todd Terry and Zahid Tariq. This successful partnership created Coro’s first single “Where Are You Tonight,” which reached the Top 25 on Billboard’s Club chart. He performed in venues throughout the United States and continued to release popular singles including, “My Fallen Angel,” “Can’t Let You Go,” “Missing You,” and “One Night With You.” In 2010, Coro released his latest single, “Sexy Lady.”
Freestyle American singer Deborah Claire Wesoff-Kowalski, also known as Debbie Deb, is best known for her hit singles, “Lookout Weekend,” “When I Hear Music,” “Fantasy,” and “Funky Little Beat.” During her career, she suffered from low self-esteem and was horrified when record producers chose to use another person to portray her image on the cover of her record sleeves as well as live performances. Debbie Deb was under the age of 18, and the record company was caught in a situation that forced them into the decision. Debbie Deb became so upset because of the situation she stopped singing for years. In 1995, Debbie Deb resurfaced and released her album “She’s Back.” In 2015, she released a new version of her hit single “Lookout Weekend.” Today, she lives near Philadelphia, works as a hair stylist and performs at concerts, venues, and events with fellow Freestyle artists, The Cover Girls, Lisa Lisa and Stevie B.
Suzanne Casale Melone, also known as American Freestyle artist Lil Suzy, was influential in the 1990’s in the Freestyle genre. Her young age caught the attention of many in the industry since she was only eight years old when she released her debut single “Randy” in 1987. Lil Suzy released her most famous single “Take Me in Your Arms” which charted at #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1992. That same year she was named Billboard magazine’s Best New Dance Artist of the year. Lil Suzy’s studio albums include, Love Can’t Wait, Back to Dance, Life Goes On and Paradise. Other singles that ranked on the U.S. Hot 100 chart are “Falling in Love” and “Promise Me.” She continued to tour with fellow Freestyle music artists Angel Clivillés , Lisette Melendez and Amber, a member of electronic group Prophecy Collective. In 2000, Lil Suzy opened a nail salon in Staten Island.
Although freestyle music may have been introduced to us in the ’80s, it definitely still lives on today. Just a few years back in 2009, singer Jordin Sparks released a single called “S.O.S,” which uses a sample from the Freestyle music song “Let the Music Play.”
Just like Jordin, there continues to be a variety of new artists who sample Freestyle songs and collaborate with Freestyle artists to create remixes. Due to the inclusion of Freestyle songs in today’s music, the music genre continues to thrive and reach fans within the United States and beyond. Who are your favorite Freestyle artists?
Did we miss any Freestyle legends? Let us know in the comments below!
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