Final Freestyle Interview: Q&A With Debbie Deb!

Click the artists' names to read Crossfade's previous Q&As with Rockell, Sa-fire, David of Nice N Wild, Judy Torres, and Johnny O.

"When I Hear Music" and "Lookout Weekend" by Debbie Deb are Miami anthems. They are two timeless instant party starters. If you think you saw Debbie Deb perform in the '80s or early 90s, you didn't. Read on and learn the truths!

José el Rey: I just ate dinner with my parents, some wonderful arroz con pollo and maduros. So good.

Debbie Deb: I can't wait to get there and have some myself!

You're in Philly, right?

I have been living here for 12 years, from Miami.

How was your day? Nice? Relaxing? Crazy?

I went to work for a little while. I do hair about eight hours a week. I'm packing for a Freestyle Invasion in Vegas right now. Freestyle is big in Vegas.

I thought of Freestyle as a just Miami thing...

It's funny, I go to some pretty rural places in the country. You wouldn't even think they know freestyle, like Louisiana. There's a big demand in Chicago, Hawaii -- it's huge in Hawaii and Guam.

You've played Guam?

In October I will!

What songs do you normally play?

I have only have a ten-minute slot, so I'll do the two songs everyone wants to hear.

How do you feel doing those same two songs?

I could just sit there and let the crowd just sing.

Are you ready for the show on May 30?

I'm so excited to see all my friends. Miami's my old stomping ground!

Where did you live in Miami?

I grew up in North Miami Beach, graduated from NMB High. I was working at Peaches on 163rd Street in High School. That's where I met Pretty Tony and got into the business. He gave me a cassette and asked if I could sing to the song on it. I went home, and in two days I had all the lyrics to "When I Hear Music"

With all the lasers it sounds like it's from the future. Your new single "Everytime You Come Around" is a little slower...

It's a little slower, it's more vocal-driven. You could dance to it! It's a little bit of a change.

You still sound like the same smiling girl I hear in the older songs. There's still that charm. When you performed back in 1980s did you play Miami a lot?

When I got into the business, like '84-'85, I only played a couple of shows. That's when things got really sour. I really didn't have the experience and exposure when the songs were popular. They kept my name -- because nobody knew what I looked like -- and they had another girl go up there as "Debbie Deb."

Was she lip-syncing or --

I don't know what they had her doing. She did that for a while. The "Debbie Deb" songs "Searching" and Fantasy" were not me at all, they were her.

I don't know those.

Nah, you don't need to. She did some touring. For a long time I was out of the business.

Wow. Damn. Where do you think Freestyle was born, New York or Miami?

The chicken or the egg? I think, Shannon had really the first freestyle song, and she's from New York.

When you recorded your first song, did they say, "Okay, we're going to do a freestyle song?"

There was no name. I thought it was more R&Bish, the first time I heard it was on WEDR, the R&B station. I think later on it was called freestyle, I don't know why. It's not disco, it's not pop -- it's a little faster, you're freestyling, y'know. Pretty Tony had a group called Freestyle back in the day. Did he start it? But Shannon was first.

Did you know how well your records sold?

I was so young and so inexperienced. I was in the dark. Eventually, we settled out of court. They kept doing songs with the fake on for a while. In '91 they sold the song to Pandisc records. They tracked me down at Aventura Mall, where I did hair. And we made "She's Back" in 1995.

That's a fairly recent record, and you kept the freestyle sound. That's a nice surprise to us freestyle fans.

Yeah, you gotta give them what they want, and keep them wanting more!

Freestyle Invasion II. Featuring Taylor Dayne, Debbie Deb, Johnny O, Judy Torres, Erotic Exotic, David of Nice & Wild, Company B, Reinaldo, Freestyle Evolution, Timmy T, Corina, Sa-fire, Rockell, Sequal, and Voice in Fashion. Saturday, May 30. BankUnited Center, 1245 Dauer Dr., Coral Gables. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., tickets cost $28 to $58. 305-284-8244; bankunitedcenter.com

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