Freestyle music got its name from a Miami group called Freestyle Express. Someone left out half the name on the group's most popular record, and when "Don't Stop the Rock" became a national hit, the label just read "Freestyle" and that word came to define the sound.
Miami Freestyle is also the music that built Power96. The station fully embraced local artists and helped launch them into national record deals with labels like Atlantic.
Freestyle superfan Marlin Alvarez remembers: "On the radio, all you heard was freestyle. They would play it between Madonna and Michael Jackson. So to me, the acts were superstars, except I got to see them everywhere, not just big arenas."
FIU radio DJ Mamey Disco is still playing those songs. Here's what both guys call the 13 best Miami Freestyle acts.
13. Nice N' Wild
DJ Mamey Disco: "Diamond Girl"? That song is 100 percent, bro. That song is just insane. When I play that song, people go wild. I'm holding the record now. Straight out of Hialeah Gardens. Their full album is not that good, but the single, phew, you can't mess with that shit.
Marlin Alvarez: These girls came out strong. They crossed over. They took freestyle to the pop charts. They had number-one hits. But when they started, it was three different girls that all got replaced. Their sound was always more polished than the usual freestyle, more commercial. They were amazing to see live.
11. Voice in Fashion
Marlin: Their best song was "In The Night." It blew up on the radio. I saw them at the Hialeah Spring Festival. They got signed to a big label, but their album never came out for some reason. But they were a great band.
DJ Mamey: Kind of that Miami, Hialeah boy, Westchester sound. All that bullshit.
Marlin: Connie was cool. She did "Funky Little Beat" that came out like in '84 or '85, like, right when everything was starting. Her song was everywhere from California to New York. She was a little Hialeah girl.
9. Genuine Parts
Marlin: Their outfits were crazy. They came out lookin' like rock stars, crazy makeup all over the face, it was amazing for Miami at the time. That was different, these girls with crazy makeup and capes. I wish I could find pics of them.
8. Secret Society
Marlin: They sound like Depeche Mode but with a Latin hint. They were tryin' to do the whole New Wave '80s feel, but it still had that Miami sound. They had a huge loyal following in Miami. They were Cuban, they would be screaming on stage and call everybody sucia. The lead singer Rudy Gil goes to my gym. He's still performing.
7. Beat Club
DJ Mamey: They produced a song called "Security." Boom de boom de boom. It's like all-time nasty nastiness. Another label out of Hialeah. Right on 49th Street and 18th. Phenomenal track. Not a lot of lyrics, not a lot of vocals. Just, like, sexy.
Marlin: So much bass and so very little vocals, just some girl talking.
6. Erotic Exotic
Marlin: One of my favorite groups. Maybe the first freestyle act I ever saw in concert. They were another group with that Cuban New Wave sound. They originally wanted to be Miami's New Order, but somehow the Latin influence made them part of the freestyle scene. They had a song called "Take Me As I Am." I remember hearing it everywhere. I was hooked. It's a little cheesy, but back then, everyone was singing that song in Miami. Power 96 played it everyday, they really supported the local freestyle artists.
5. Will to Power
Marlin: "Dreamin" is one of my favorite songs ever. It was the number-one song of 1987 on Power 96. That song is amazing.
DJ Mamey: It was on the charts for 27 weeks straight. No other song did that. The guy behind it was Bob Rosenberg. He was like a dance music DJ on Hot 105 or something who started this group with his girlfriend singing.
4. Company B
Marlin: They had a huge number one with "Fascinated." People are still dancing to that. They were all over MTV. I saw them at Hot Wheels. They had a good show. They all wore white wigs, that was their trademark.
DJ Mamey: They were all Miami girls. Could have been your cousin. It's the real Miami sound. Even the national press of their record on Atlantic was mixed and mastered locally by Mike Fuller.
3. Stevie B
Marlin: Hit after hit after hit. He was amazing. I saw him at every party and concert at Hot Wheels. He's still out there. Still making freestyle. His fanbase follows him everywhere.
DJ Mamey: He kicked the shit out of everyone. And the beats are hard.
Marlin: Everything she released was banger. You play those now, still fire. Her shows were crazy, so much energy on that stage. I saw her so many times, bro. I remember the back-to-school Power 96 concert in 1988 at Bayfront Park Amphitheater. She opened up for Stevie B. She had the whole place up and dancing. The energy, the bass ... It was just fire, dude. I never seen such a performance like that. I was hooked.
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1. Pretty Tony
DJ Mamey: He was doing "Fix It in the Mix" back in 1983, before freestyle, ya feel me. But he produced Debbie Deb's "Lookout Weekend," and "When I Hear Music." The thing is, he was more like booty electro. The typical freestyle sound was a love duet. The Puerto Ricans loved that shit. Pretty Tony was more about beats. He had a black freestyle sound mixed with Latin tropical flavor.
Marlin: He had a band that was named Freestyle that became so popular people started calling anything like it "the freestyle sound." That's where the genre gets its name from. In New York, they were just calling it Latin hip-hop, but it wasn't marketable. So they just went with freestyle and it stuck. But it's really from Miami, and it's a great name.