15 Latinx Artists Who Are Essential to Freestyle Music

  Freestyle music, also known as Latin freestyle and Latin hip-hop, is an electronic music genre that was popular in the late 1980s and 1990s

Photo: Unsplash/@meymigrou

Photo: Unsplash/@meymigrou

Freestyle music, also known as Latin freestyle and Latin hip-hop, is an electronic music genre that was popular in the late 1980s and 1990s. The perfect blend of techno, disco, Latin music, and other influences, freestyle was big in areas including NYC (where it originated), Miami, Detroit, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and the San Francisco Bay Area.

And of course, POC and WOC were instrumental in its inception, growth, and success. Shannon’s “Let The Music Play” is considered the first freestyle jam, and artists such as Stevie B, Lisa Lisa, The Cover Girls, and Tony T helped further the genre to one which produced big, timeless hits and had a generation (and those after it) dancing and singing along. We wanted to share with you several Latinx artists who are an integral part of freestyle music. You will learn a little about the artist or group, as well as what songs you should check out. And, of course, we included music videos for each!

Stevie B

You can’t even have a conversation about freestyle without mentioning who is arguably the King of Freestyle, Stevie B. Hailing from Fort Lauderdale, the Puerto Rican-Dominican topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart with the classic ballad, “Because I Love You.” But the majority of his hits, such as “Spring Love (Come Back to Me),” and “I Wanna Be the One” were pure freestyle.

Some Songs to Check Out:

– “Spring Love (Come Back to Me)”
“Dreamin’ of Love”
“Party Your Body”

Lisa Lisa and Members of the Cult Jam

Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam is another big part of freestyle music. Headed by Nuyorican Lisa Velez, the New York-based group, which also included Mike Hughes on drums, and Alex “Spanador” Moseley, had some great hits during the ’80s and ’90s, including “Lost in Emotion,” and the ballad “All Cried Out.” Lisa Lisa has since been a major source of orgullo Latinx, a visible Latinx face in popular music we saw growing up.

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Lost in Emotion”
“I Wonder If I Take You Home”
– “All Cried Out”

Johnny O

Johnny O is another freestyle star who has been called the King of Freestyle. Born Johnny Ortiz in Brooklyn, New York, the Puerto Rican singer scored a major hit with the iconic jam, “Fantasy Girl.”

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Fantasy Girl”
“Dreamboy/Dreamgirl” (with Cynthia)
“Runaway Love”

Judy Torres

It looks like there are debates as to who reigns as the true King and Queen of Freestyle, but we are just happy that so many Latinxs were so successful in the genre that there is such a debate at all. Also referred to as The Queen of Freestyle, the Nuyorican from the Bronx has had big hits such as “Come Into My Arms,” and “No Reason to Cry.”

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Come Into My Arms”
“No Reason to Cry”
“Love Story”


TKA is a Latinx freestyle group, made up of Tony Ortiz, “Aby” Cruz (later replaced with Angel “Love” Vasquez, and Louis “Kayel” Sharpe. The Nuyoricans are one of the genre’s biggest acts, and have had several successful songs, including “One Way Love” and “Tears May Fall.”

Some Songs to Check Out:

“One Way Love”
“Tears May Fall”
“You Are the One”

George LaMond

Next on our list of Latinx singers who made their mark in freestyle music is George LaMond. Born George Garcia, the Puerto Rican released his first single, “Bad of the Heart” in 1989, which led to a major record deal, touring with New Kids on the Block, and more jams (in various genres, including salsa).

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Bad of the Heart”
“Look Into My Eyes”
“Without You”

Jeanette Jurado of Exposé

The all-girl group Exposé was a big deal in the ’80s and ’90s. So many of their jams were played on the radio, from the freestyle “Point of No Return, ” to the #1 ballad “Seasons Change.” One of their members, Jeanette Jurado, is a Chicana from Pico Rivera, California who sang lead on a lot of the group’s songs.

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Come Go With Me”
“Seasons Change”
“Let Me Be the One”

Lisette Melendez

Another Latina whose name is synonymous with freestyle music is Lisette Melendez. Reviving freestyle music in the ’90s, Melendez’s biggest hit was 1990’s “Together Forever.” You can check out the video for the jam above!

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Goody Goody”
“Will You Ever Save Me”
“A Day in My Life (Without You)”

Brenda K Starr

Puerto Rican Brenda K Starr has sung in a variety of genres, including salsa, R&B, and pop, but she got her start in freestyle. In fact, her first big hit was “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” the lead single of her 1985 debut album. Did you know that fellow Latinx Mariah Carey was once Brenda K Starr’s backup singer?! That’s why Carey covered Starr’s song, “I Still Believe.” It was an homage to her.

Some Songs to Check Out:

“What You See Is What You Get”
“No Matter What” (with George LaMond)
“I Still Believe”


Puerto Rican Corina (Corina Katt Ayala) had a mega-hit on her hands with the ’90s freestyle classic “Temptation,” which reached #6 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. She released other charting songs and tried her hand at acting. Did you know that Corina played Frida Kahlo in the film, Cradle Will Rock?

Some Songs to Check Out:

– “Give Me Back My Heart”
“Summertime Summertime”


Puerto Ricans were front and center in freestyle music, both as artists, as well as fans, in New York, and beyond. Another Boricua freestyle star is Noel (Noel Pagan). The Bronx native had his first big hit with his jam, “Silent Morning.”

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Like a Child”
“Out of Time”
“The Question”


Sa-Fire is the next Latin freestyle icon on our list. The Puerto Rican, born Wilma Cosmé, has had five songs chart on the Billboard Hot 100. And like many other freestyle artists, she has also released music in Spanish.

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Thinking of You”
“Boy, I’ve Been Told”
“I Will Survive”


Puerto Rican singer Cynthia, a.k.a. Cynthia Todino, made a name for herself in freestyle with hits including “Dreamboy/Dreamgirl,” which she recorded with Johnny O, and, of course, the freestyle classic, “Change On Me.” The Spanish Harlem native was actually in a group with Sa-Fire before pursuing a solo career!

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Endless Nights”
“Thief of Hearts”
“Break Up To Make Up”

Lil Suzy

Another Latinx freestyle singer with legendary freestyle icon status and songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart is Lil’ Suzy. A song of hers you may know is the classic “Take Me In Your Arms.” Who didn’t sing that one out loud — at high volume — in the early ’90s?!

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Promise Me”
“Can’t Get You Out of My Mind”
“I Still Love You”

Members of The Cover Girls

The Cover Girls are a freestyle girl group from New York, consisting of Latina Louise Angel Sabater (Angel Clivillés), Caroline Jackson, and Sunshine Wright (the original lineup). Some of their hits include “Show Me,” “Because of You,” and “My Hearts Skips a Beat.” Changes in the group over the years saw the addition of singers Sabrina Nieves, Evelyn Escalera, Margo Urban, and Lorraine Munoz.

Some Songs to Check Out:

“Show Me”
“My Heart Skips A Beat”
“Wishing On A Star”

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