Freestyle, the subgenre of dance music that emerged in the early years of the 1980s and hit peak popularity toward the end of the decade, isn’t a particularly easy sound to define. It’s a hodgepodge of various styles; it could include a little disco, a dose of hip-hop or electro, and a dollop of Latin American influences, frequently all wrapped up into one song. It’s the club-oriented yet radio-friendly style that gave rise to groups such as Exposé and solo artists like Stevie B. It’s music most commonly associated with a single decade (even though freestyle still had its champions in the early 1990s) and certain cities — namely New York, Miami and Los Angeles.
If you grew up in L.A. during the ’80s, freestyle takes on another level of nostalgia. It’s the sound of roller rinks and mall stores where you could find bike shorts to match your new miniskirt and crop top. It’s the soundtrack to parties where the DJ isn’t much older than the teens in attendance. It’s the playlist blasting from Power 106 on the way to the first day back at school when you’re more excited about your new pair of L.A. Gear sneakers than you are about class and hoping that your teased bangs won’t fall flat by lunch.