In 1983, Black pop/dance artist Shannon released the iconic “Let The Music Play.” It was a watershed moment in popular music. Written by a Puerto Rican producer Chris Barbosa, together he and Shannon introduced a sound that not only changed the sound of pop music but laid the groundwork for Latin Hip-Hop that emerged just a year later. The genre of complex electro beats, orchestra hits, hard bass, hypnotizing synths, Latin percussions, and pop melodies is now widely known as Freestyle music. Growing up I loved a few songs here and there, I didn’t immerse myself until the summer of 1994 – well after the genre’s mainstream peak in the late 1980s.
By the mid-1990s, Freestyle music was having a kind of resurgence thanks to artists like Jocelyn Enriquez, Lil Suzy, and Rockell. One of the songs that pulled me in deeper into the genre was Rochelle’s 1994 single, the slammin’ “Praying For An Angel.”
I was obsessed by the song structure, vocal arrangement, lyrics and production of “Praying For An Angel.” It was after reading the line notes of the CD Maxi-Single (google that lol) that I discovered the song’s writer A’Lisa B. I began following her and watched her score a string of hits on Billboard’s Hot 100 as the lead singer of the mid-90s dance group Max-A-Million and now as one of Freestyle music’s most sought out songwriters and exciting artists. I had a chance to chat with A’Lisa B (a dream true!) about her journey as an artist, songwriter, and head of her own label.
“I was an aspiring artist and songwriter, doing background work for other local artists whenever I got the chance. One of the studios where I recorded demos, Soto Sound studios, was where I got the chance to write my first Freestyle song. The group De La Mor was looking for songs and the studio owner, the late Jerry Soto, recommended me as a writer. After receiving the track from their producer, the late Carlos Mojica, I wrote and demoed “Latin Lover” for them to learn. I even helped them learn the backgrounds at the recording session.”
A’Lisa B then recording her own demos on a Tascam 4 track recorder at home. One of those songs was Rochelle’s 1995 single “Praying For An Angel.” The song got A’Lisa B signed to SOS Records as an in-house songwriter and solo artist.
I went on to write “In My Heart” for Isaac “Holding On To Love” for Rochelle, “Angelina” for Julio (from the Chicago group LAW), and most recently “Slipping Through My Hands” for TKA and “Now That You’re Gone” for Synthia Figueroa. I consider myself blessed to still be writing, and now performing Freestyle songs.
In 1994 A’Lisa B would garner success at both the radio and club level as lead singer of the dance music group Max-A-Million. The group charted 3 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 including a cover of the SOS Band’s “Take Your Time.”
It was an amazing time. To hear my voice on the radio, in the clubs, and in the cars passing by was surreal. From co-writing and recording the album in an A-List studio to touring all over the world, it was one of the most exciting times of my life. We had four singles released from the album and did music videos that were played on MTV. You can still find them on YouTube. Crowds would line up for blocks to see us perform, and would sing along, knowing every word. It was like living a dream. Not everything was perfect, the entertainment industry is never an easy road to navigate, but the good times far outweighed the bad.
A’Lisa B is in a league of her own in the Freestyle Music genre. She is a singer, writer, producer and arranger. And as of 2021, is now at the head of her own Freestyle label Verse312.
As a Black woman, you would think that I would have felt very intimidated trying to make a mark in a Latinx genre. But I felt a connection to the music, the people, and the beat. I just love it and growing up listening to so many different styles of music, I never even thought about not being accepted. I just did what I felt in my gut. And fortunately, I have been accepted and supported to be a part of a musical genre that I love and respect. After researching, I found out that it was a style based on Hip-Hop beats and Latin melodies. Hip-Hop has Black and Latinx origins. I love that through music there has always been a connection between us all. And with Shannon being a legend in the community, I was inspired. I wanted to try to make a contribution, no matter how small it might be.
A’Lisa B has just released her latest single “Sunshine,” one of fave songs of 2021.
My friend and Grammy award-winning producer, Maurice Joshua, whom I’ve also collaborated with on an upcoming La Bouche song called “I Want It All’, sent me the track. And I fell in love with it. The 80s feel made me feel good every time I heard it. It was so easy and fun to write. It has a summertime, going to the beach kind of vibe to it. So I decided that “Sunshine” would be a perfect title. I was inspired by that special feeling that you get when you fall in love. It’s available now, on all digital platforms. With some amazing remixes by Josh JW, DJMerkone, and Luis Guevarez.
A’Lisa B is now continuing the legacy set fourth by Shannon. Her voice and songwriting are a force in the genre’s steady emergence from the underground and this is in large part of LGBTQ Black and Latinx elders and young people who have helped to keep the genre alive.
The LGBTQ community has always been important to me. And they have supported me ever since my Max-A-Million days. The Gay clubs back in the day were always THE spot to hear the best music on the best sound systems. And to feel included no matter who you were. I have a special respect for those that are living their lives proudly and being who they were born to be. Some of my greatest loves, friends, and inspirations in music, and in life, were and are part of this beautiful community. And I’m honored to be an ally.