'Legends of Freestyle' '80s & '90s Doc to Tell the History of 'Latin Freestyle' Featuring Nayobe, George Lamond, TKA, & C+C Music Factory's Freedom Williams (EXCLUSIVE)
If you graduated from high school in the late '80s or early '90s and remember having your Firebird's T-tops down, the New York City breeze in your hair and K7's "Come Baby Come," C+C Music Factory's "Gonna Make You Sweat," or Nayobe's "Please Don't Go," blasting from your stereo's speakers, then you'll want to check out the upcoming documentary "Legends of Freestyle," directed by Steve Stanulis.
Stanulis, who recently reminisced of his aforementioned high school days, enjoyed what was dubbed "Freestyle or Latin Freestyle" and is taking his memories a step further. He's reliving the past and revealing the never-been-told story of the "Freestyle or Latin Freestyle genre that still thrives to this day, but hasn't been truly recognized.
Last week, this sentiment was reiterated when Stanulis, Fever Records Founder & Producer Sal Abbatiello and a panel of Freestyle musicians toasted and discussed the documentary at The Sanctuary Hotel's Tender Lounge in New York, in which Latin Post was in attendance.
The panel included Nayobe, TKA, Noel, C+C Music Factory's Freedom Williams, Hanson, and George Lamond.
"I couldn't believe that nothing has been done on the history of Freestyle," said Stanulis, who is also a producer and an actor. "So when I did my due-diligence, they said you have got to meet the 'Godfather of Freestyle,' who is Sal Abbatiello."
Slated for release in this fall, "Legends of Freestyle" will provide "an in-depth look at how the Freestyle music movement started in America, which artists rose to the top and where they are today," according to Stanulis. "The film will also delve into the rebirth of Freestyle over the last decade and how touring collectively has kept many of the greats in the music business."
"Legends of Freestyle" is aimed to "help put a face to the artists that entire generations grew up listening to but never saw before."
"My heroes are sitting with me today," said Louis Sharpe, also known as K7, the frontman of TKA (known for the hits, "Come Baby Come" and "Swing Batta Swing.") The Puerto Rican, New York native also shared his upbringing as a "flyer boy," who distributed club flyers at places like Harlem World.
"I look at Freestyle as the sister that Hip-Hop forgot," he added.
For those who aren't familiar with the genre, or weren't even born during its hey-day, "Freestyle" or "Latin Freestyle" is best described as electronic music that emerged in the 1980s around New York City and Miami. The music's signature sound comes from a melding of vocal styles prevalent in disco music and the sound of 1980s electro, with influences from hip-hop sampling.
Hip-hop and Freestyle veteran and guru Abbatiello also reminisced on the high-energy era that's near and dear to his heart, as well as the Freestyle/Latin Freestyle genre that captapulted the careers of many Latina artists.
"I am very proud because this music (Hip-hop) has been going on for 35 years now and we have been trailblazing the market," Abbatiello explained. "I had a dream. I was one of the pioneers of Hip-hop in 1977 and when I brought it indoors, because they didn't see this movement yet ... it was in the streets for young, black teenagers and when I brought it indoors, it had developed its own lifestyle before the music."
"In the early '80s, you had this young Latino community developing and they were following the Hip-hop trail and how they were developing a new sound as something that they could call their own. There was R&B and the urban community developed Hip-hop. As I was doing that, they were following the careers of Hip-hop and myself...and I found this young lady, Nayobe."
Abbatiello discovered the Brooklyn-born, Bronx-raised, Cuban-American singer Nayobe at the young age of 14 when she won the talent show at his skating rink. The reward was a recording contract with his Fever Records. After signing Nayobe, the "Please Don't Go" demo that helped catapult her career was pitched to them, and the rest was history.
"When I heard the sound it was a Latin-sounding disco record to me," Abbatiello said. "A few months before that, I was influenced by Gloria Estefan, who did 'Conga,' and when she made 'Conga,' I said, 'Wow, what a cool record!' [It was] Latin sounding, but with English words, that was the group Miami Sound Machine...I related it to how Hip-hop was discovered and I was like,'This is going to be the new sound.' Every genre has a movement -- Disco, Motown and Rock n' Roll, Hip-Hop."
Abatiello opened up a night club called The Devil's Nest that celebrated talented Freestyle artists "from The Cover Girls, Safire, TKA, Exposé, Sweet Sensation, Seduction...it blew up to about 100 solo artists."
"It's (Freestyle) still thriving and selling out arenas throughout the country," he pointed out. "The best memory was obviously when it was born in the mid-'80s and bringing this Latino generation to the forefront, but the most exciting part was when we re-invented it in the 2000s when we thought it was over. ...The greatest night of my life with this genre was bringing it to Madison Square Garden and filling up the Garden. I will never forget that for as long as I live."
"I have the utmost respect for Sal, he is the Godfather of hip-hop and Freestyle since the late '80s," added C&C Music Factory's Freedom Williams. "'Gonna Make You Sweat' came from that relationship of Hip-Hop and Freestyle."
An emotional Nayobe thanked God, her longtime friend, Abbatiello, Stanulis, her fans and her fellow Freestyle artists for lending their support through the years.
"I wanted to someone to take an interest. ... I have been saying this for the past 5 years. It's real-life, we would have been Number One if we were a reality show," she explained. "There is so much to be said. I want to say thank you so much," my best friend Sal Abbatiello, We have so much history that people don't know, I love this man," she said as tears streamed down her face.
"Before I met this man, I was already singing but for some reason, we came together and there was chemistry, even though he was 30 and I was 14-going-on-15, we understood each other, he understood me," she explained. "We come from totally different backgrounds, I come from Cuban descent, born in Brooklyn and raised in the Bronx, Sal is Italian, but he always was around the rap artists...it goes on and on."
During the event, Nayobe, whose full name is Nayobe Catalina Gomez, performed her hits, "Please Don't Go" and "Second Chance for Love."
"It (Freestyle/Latin Freestyle) was music I could relate to," she added. "That was one of the best eras, some of the best times and I don't know we could ever have that again."
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