La Brega

4. I Wonder if I Take You Home — Freedom in Freestyle

Created on the streets by young Nuyoricans in the mid-1980s, freestyle music became the soundtrack for the lives of second-generation Puerto Ricans. Hip-hop and pop, Latin Caribbean rhythms and instruments — it all came together in freestyle. The sound was ubiquitous in New York, and later in Orlando, Florida, where many of these Boricuas were charting new ground and new lives across the diaspora. 

Artists, many of whom were young Puerto Rican women, ultimately became the face of the genre; and for the listeners that so resembled them, the music provided an opportunity to dance to the beat of someone who looked and sounded like them. Young freestyle artists sang about love, heartbreak, and their sexual desires. In Lisa Lisa & Cult Jam’s “I Wonder If I Take You Home” — one of the genre’s biggest hits — a young woman sings about her sexual desire, on her own terms and without shame.

As a Boricua born in the '90s, reporter Raquel Reichard didn’t experience the freestyle explosion in real time, but she’s felt its profound ripple effects. In this episode, we meet two mother-daughter duos — including Raquel and her mother — for whom “I Wonder if I Take You Home” is particularly special. The song opened intergenerational conversations around sexuality, respectability and empowerment, and while impacting their lives both personally and professionally, it also strengthened their relationships with each other. 

Learn more about the voices in this episode:

Stacey DiLiberto, lecturer at the University of Central Florida  

Louie Ortiz-Fonseca, freestyle historian and former freestyle artist

Nic Lopez Rodriguez, DJ and performance studies scholar

• Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, Executive Director of Florida Access Network

• Read Raquel Reichard’s reporting on the history of birth control trials.

• Watch the documentary "La Operación,” about the sterilization of Puerto Rican women during the 1950s and 60s.

Our cover of “I Wonder If I Take You Home” is by the artist RaiNao, featuring IFE (out this March).

Listen to our Spotify playlist, featuring music from this episode — and this season. We’ll keep adding to it each week as new episodes come out.

Special thanks this week to Zoe Colón, Angel Vendrell, Jackie and Emily Diaz, Richie Rosario, Cynthia Torres, DJ Dominick, and Maritza and Lizardo Reichard. Fact checking this season is by Istra Pacheco and Maria Soledad.