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

La Brega

WNYC Studios and Futuro Studios

Podcast, Puerto, San, Historia, La, De, Vieques, Juan, Rico, Society & Culture, Levittown, Noticias, Brega

4.91K Ratings

🗓️ 16 February 2023

⏱️ 41 minutes

🧾️ Download transcript


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 April). 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 María Soledad Dávila Calero. This season of La Brega is made possible by the Mellon Foundation.

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listener supported WNYC Studios. So as soon as we knew we were going to make the season of La Brega all about


music we knew we wanted to do an episode about love songs.


Actually, every episode in this season is about love of one kind or another,


love for the island, for our history, for our families.


Then I was talking with Raquel Reichert.


She's the deputy director at Refinery 29 Somos.


And she told me there's this one love song that totally shaped her and shaped a lot of the women in her life.


It's I Wonder If I Take You Home by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam released in 1985.


It's about romance and intimacy, so yes, we're going to talk about sex. And for that reason, I want to give listeners the heads up. There's some frank talk in here that may not be suitable


for younger listeners. Really? Here's Rakelwood the story.


Once again it's going to go backwards skaters, backwards skaters.


Oh, maybe you can't skate backwards, please go ahead.


Find that exit.


It's a Friday in 1999, and I'm at Universal Skating Rank in East Orlando on Teen Night.


I'm only nine years old, but my mom lets me sneak in and join my older brother to make sure he stays out of trouble.


We're on a street called Goldenrod, where my family moved to from the Montagnas


de Mocha or years earlier. On the rink and in the dance room, most of the teens look or sound like I do.


We're young Puerto Rican transplants from the archipelago, New York, Jersey,


Philly and Chicago. And we're just trying to have a good time in our swampy new city.


The DJ is sick, spinning, and stopping along the wall.


The DJ is sick, spinning hits from Puff Daddy and TLC.


And then we hear those familiar horns.


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