Various Artists

Forever Freestyle

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Forever Freestyle could, at the least, use some Debbie Deb and Jenny Burton, and there's involuntary carpetbaggery on the part of Stacey Q, but it's hard to knock a compilation that, as of 2007, makes for the most ideal and widely available introduction to freestyle. Nearly every one of these songs could be heard all day and night on pop-oriented radio stations in cities with concentrated Latino populations, especially New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, cities that also produced the majority of the music. Most of them were released during the latter half of the '80s, with Shannon's 1983 hit "Let the Music Play" setting the rough template: electro's heavily syncopated drum programming, added Latin percussion elements, multiple bold synth patterns, and vocals that are melancholy (no matter how energetic), melodic, and often desperate. Much of the absolute best can be found here, including "Let the Music Play," Company B's "Fascinated," Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam with Full Force's "I Wonder If I Take You Home," Nice & Wild's "Diamond Girl," and Exposé's "Point of No Return." Just one of the "Latin explosions" that took place well before the mainstream popularity of Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez, it bleeds into electro, R&B, Italo-disco, house, and hip-house. For a lot of people, freestyle represents a blip in time, but its roots and lasting effects cover three decades.

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