Freestyle is a loosely defined music style that can be interpreted in a number of ways and has been attributed to numerous artists that one might otherwise fail to connect. Nonetheless, I think once a person hears a song that is clearly defined as part of the freestyle genre, it isn't that difficult to identify songs and artists that fit the category. The Urban Dictionary defines freestyle as follows:
The music first developed in the early 1980's primarily in major cities like the New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey area of the Eastern United States of America. It was a fusion of 70's disco and 80's break dancing music, influenced also by sampling found in Hip-Hop. The genre can be further subdivided into Old School and New School. Old school was generally made before 1991.
Freestyle music in general is heavily influenced by Latin music, especially with respect to rhythms and brass/horn and keyboard parts. The Latin "clave" rhythm can be felt in many songs. The tempo of Freestyle music is almost always between 110 and 130 BPM (Beats per Minute), typically around 118 BPM. The keyboard parts are often elegant and clever, with many short melodies and countermelodies. Again a strong influence of Latin music.
The electro funk sound was changed and refined adding Latin American rhythms and a totally syncopated drum sound. That was definitely a reason why the style came to be very popular among Latinas as well as Italian Americans. Hence, the names "Latin Hip Hop" or "Latin Freestyle". Now, the more neutral term "Freestyle" is generally preferred.
The theme of the lyrics is usually romantic with a positive message. The topics developed so far have not been overly complex, and are based more on a purely emotional response.
The following Nelly Furtado videos (the actual music video as well as her live AMA performance) are a great demonstration of freestyle's influence in today's music. I've also included a video by one of the most notable freestyle artists, Lil' Suzy to give the listener an opportunity to see the connections. Furtado's latest CD, Loose, is garnering Furtado a lot of attention and is a clear departure from her previous work...although if one looks at her background, it makes a lot of sense that she has created a CD with this type of music. The following review is from Amazon:
The buzz for Nelly Furtado's Loose began before the music was even recorded, with the announcement that legendary hip-hop knob-twirler Timbaland (Missy Elliott, Jay-Z, Justin Timberlake) would act as co-producer. The question on fans' minds: what would it sound like when a hip-hop kingpin collaborated with an artist who culls inspiration not just from pop music, but also her own Portuguese roots?
As it turns out, Loose incorporates a number of different styles along its journey, but is--surprisingly--primarily divided between '80s-influenced electronica and Latin-infused pop. This disc is very different from Furtado's previous CDs, a fact immediately evident from track one, the new wave-affected "Afraid." A strong opener, the song is the beginning of a 1-2-3 punch of up-tempo, infectious dance floor beats.
The second cut, "Maneater," also proves to be incredibly catchy, but the verses and keyboard sound too much like they were plucked from electroclash artist Peaches' tree, and originality is lost. The perfect summer pop song follows…the massive hit "Promiscuous," which features clever interplay between Furtado and Timbaland on their sassy duet. From that point, Loose oscillates between the Miami-affected sounds of R&B, Latino pop, and reggaeton ("Showtime," "Te Busque," and "No Hay Igual" respectively) and the aforementioned '80s vibe ("Glow," "Do It"). Fans will hear Furtado at her vocal best on "Say It Right" and "In God’s Hands"--two of the most lyrically compelling tracks on the disc. --Denise Sheppard
In my opinion, this Furtado CD draws upon the many influences found in her background and clearly represents her best work to date.
Nelly Furtado - Say It Right (Music Video)
Nelly Furtado - Say It Right (AMA Performance)
Lil' Suzy - Take Me In Your Arms