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Freestyle Forever [Opinion]

Posted by ThatsMyJamRadio on May 30, 2010

Within the dance, pop and R&B music showcased on That’s My Jam, freestyle is one of our favorite sub-genres. But sadly, the dance-pop hybrid has seen its artists collectively screwed and is often forgotten by those who didn’t — and even did — grow up listening to it.

This is a shame, especially given that freestyle grew at a time when music video outlets were young and seemingly hungry for content. Nightclubs in certain parts of the country embraced the club-ready cuts before they gained national acceptance, but the budgets were rarely afforded to the acts to produce high-quality music videos. In fact, some of freestyle’s most memorable records don’t have videos.

Not that having one was necessary to get exposure on MTV. During the late ’80s and early ’90s, several of the genre’s top performers appeared on Club MTV and its competition, The Party Machine, to promote their latest releases. A chosen few were even selected to tour with Club MTV’s cross-country concert featuring other top dance and hip-hop artists. It’s been said that MTV abandoned freestyle acts when many of them dropped out of the tour in the early ’90s. This supposedly prompted a backlash against the genre that resulted in records being pulled of radio stations’ playlists, despite some performers adapting their sound to hip-hop-flavored melodies in order to stay competitive.

All but dead, freestyle remained silent for a short period of time before it was revived by songs such as Collage’s “I’ll Be Loving You” and Lil Suzy’s “Take Me in Your Arms.” This would inspire contributions from the likes of Jocelyn Enriquez, Planet Soul and Rockell, who stayed true to freestyle’s establishing elements, but made the records sound fresh among their contemporaries.

Since that time, freestyle has ebbed and flowed, but has mainly remained a non-presence in popular music. Periodically, a record will come out that makes the dance crowd take notice, but for the most part, mainstream audiences have closed the book on freestyle.

Freestyle FM, an online community that features a streaming radio station, does a great job of keeping freestyle alive, as well as exposing aficionados to the latest crop of singers looking to follow in the footsteps of trendsetters such as Lisa Lisa, TKA, the Cover Girls and Stevie B. Though That’s My Jam devotes space to covering many genres, we are committing to making sure that freestyle lives forever by including artists in playlists, reviewing their albums, and posting features and editorials just like this. Who knows, maybe freestyle will see another resurgence in the near future.

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