Todd Terry Returns to His Freestyle Roots

Categories: Interviews

Though best known for his house and hip-hop productions, Brooklyn's Todd Terry caught his break producing freestyle records like Giggles's "Love Letter" and Fascination's "Why You Wanna Go." Late last year, he returned with Freestyle Forever, a new LP of original songs, and in anticipation of Saturday's unrelated Freestyle Forever concert at Lehman College, we talked to Todd about clubbing in the '80s, breaking into production, and what makes freestyle so fun make.

See also: The 50 Most NYC Albums Ever

When and where did you first come across freestyle?
I guess it was '84, '85, whatever. We'd go to clubs and DJs would be playing just club music. That's what they called freestyle at that time. They played all different styles and "freestyle" became known three to four years later. They gave it a name, but it was just electronic club music.

What clubs were you going to? Devil's Nest?
We went past Devil's Nest, La Mirage, L'Amour East. There were so many clubs playing, I would say, just club music. It wouldn't just be freestyle; it would be reggae, funk, hip-hop. They would play a little bit of everything. It was different than how things are now where they have freestyle night or a house night. They mixed it up.

What DJs were playing freestyle at the time?
Big J at Roseland, Lil' Louis at Heartthrob, Jellybean at Fun House. That's where I heard a lot of stuff, through Fun House. I think that was the key: Fun House, Jellybean Benitez. And Larry Levan in the Garage played stuff that was like freestyle, but he played everything as well. A lot of those clubs were where we got into it.

And then when did you start DJing?
I was DJing at that time. I was kind of like just in the park cutting up great beats and stuff like that. More like the Bizarre and stuff like that because my friend was having a birthday party. I didn't take it seriously until I started doing more weddings and Sweet 16's, and then I pursued it. I did a business of DJing just through word of mouth. Just doing everybody's parties to make some money. As I was hanging out, going back into the clubs like Roseland and stuff like that, I always wondered what it would be like to make a record. I could make some more money off the records. So that's how I really got into it. Just by being in the club scene.

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