by Monika Fabian | June 1, 2013
It's been about 25 years since freestyle lived its late-'80s heyday. Like boogaloo and salsa before it, freestyle became a fusion music for a new generation of bicultural U.S.-born Latinos in New York, Miami and elsewhere around the country. The dance music melded melismatic, R&B-style vocals, Latin rhythms and highly syncopated, synth-driven electro. Almost always about love and heartbreak, freestyle, in retrospect, also feels like the English-language cousin to salsa's romántica wave, which was taking root around the same time. In fact, India and Marc Anthony both got their starts in freestyle and went on to find their biggest successes singing romántica (including on the duet "Vivir Lo Nuestro") after dance-pop's draw waned in the mid-'90s.
Freestyle never met its demise, though. It's been kept alive all these years by club nights and star-studded revival concerts. Elements of freestyle have even started creeping up in some of today's electro-pop. Check out our playlist to relive some the genre's greatest moments and hear freestyle-flecked tracks by contemporary acts like Grimes, Bomba Estereo and Empress Of.