More old-school hip-hop, electro, and ragga than big-beat techno (though they're often pigeonholed that way), the Freestylers were formed by the trio of Matt Cantor, Aston Harvey, and Andrew Galea. All three were British b-boys back in the day, and were heavily involved in Britain's dance scene by the late '80s, both as DJs and producers, with Cantor recording as Cut'n'Paste, 2 Fat Buddhas, and Freska All Stars, among others, and Harvey as Blapps! Posse (author of the 1990 breakbeat classic "Don't Hold Back"). Harvey had also worked with Rebel MC and Definition of Sound, but after meeting Galea, the pair began recording together as Sol Brothers and soon brought Cantor into the fold as well.
Taking the name Freestylers from their first sample (Freestyle's "Don't Stop the Rock"), the trio released their first single, "Drop the Boom (AK-48)" and formed their own Scratch City Records to release it. The track was a prime slice of vocoderized electro, and became an underground club classic as far afield as bass-driven Miami. The Freestyle EP followed late in 1996, and Freestylers also released singles on Freskanova (home of Cantor's many solo projects). The group even managed a chart hit (and Top of the Pops appearance) with 1998's "B-Boy Stance," a collaboration with vocalist Tenor Fly. A spate of remixing followed, for Audioweb, Afrika Bambaataa, and the Jungle Brothers (the latter a pair of the Freestylers' prime influences). The trio also helmed the big-beat compilation FSUK 2 and contributed a "Radio One Essential Mix" (where Beenie Man, Public Enemy, the Fall, and Whodini all rubbed elbows). Live appearances at Glastonbury and around the European festival circuit met with much praise, and the Freestylers finally released their debut album, We Rock Hard, in 1999. The mix album Electro Science followed a year later. ~ John Bush