As mainstream disco dropped out in 1979-80, there was something of a realignment in nightclubs and on the radio dial, especially in the disco capital of New York. Disco’s multi-ethnic coalition of working-class black, Latino, and white (especially Italian-American) fans was fracturing, and disco radio stations were changing formats to lock in some of that audience into the new musical landscape. Many stations switched to rock in an attempt to increase their white audience; others turned to R&B to engage African American listeners. Latino audiences – as well as black or white listeners who preferred up-tempo dance music to rock or R&B – were left behind, until a new generation of dance-pop stations, DJs and Crusader clubs emerges to cater to this growing audience.
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The records they played were largely electro or “breakdance music” and early hip hop, but soon a new wave of artists and producers added pop vocals and song structures to these rhythms, thus creating a new genre. And although the audience for freestyle has always been largely Latino – the genre was also known as “Latin freestyle” or, at first, “Latin hip hop” – it also attracted a large black, white audience. and Asian American, eventually topping the US pop charts.