Freestyle is both a musical genre and, as a multitude of fanzines will tell you, a lifestyle. The playwright Jorge Ignacio Cortiñas evoked our teenage surround when he called it a "system of living." Described as "android descarga" by music critic Peter Shapiro and "a soap opera set to music" by the vocalist Judy Torres, there is general agreement that freestyle is constituted by a nebulous Latin feel that is spoken about but not necessarily accounted for. This essay enters the scene of freestyle with the assumption that it is both tinge and fringe—and by that I mean both marginal part and decorative border. To do so means to surrender the accolade of theorist for stylist, to harbor the hard work of listening from scholarly convention. To try and tell freestyle's story is to say a great deal about a moment when large numbers of young women found themselves on the inside of recording studios. The story bears its own annals of the uncredited, adding volumes of names to those who have lent their uncompensated talents to the advent of studio-based recording. With a focus on freestyle's women vocalists from the late 1980s to the early 1990s, this essay picks up on a legacy of techniques developed to navigate the procedures of recording, including but not limited to those that go down in studios. The essay also suggests how freestyle's audiences have taken up such techniques from the back then and have extended them into the beats thereafter.
Social Text – Duke University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2010