Pretty Tony on Freestyle Music: "I Came Up With a Whole Genre"

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Pretty Tony in the studio
"Pretty" Tony Butler's Music Specialists Inc. may be Florida's first black-owned, million-record-selling independent record label.

With Butler's confidence in his ear for hits, he launched a studio in the heart of Liberty City and took on the recording industry. At its peak, the company owned its own pressing plant and ran it 24/7 to keep up with demand for its product.

In the past couple of years, Butler has continued his success, writing for Flo Rida, Sean Kingston, Juicy J, Pitbull, Will I Am and Tiësto. Here's what Pretty Tony had to say about his old Party Down DJs crew, working with songwriters, and his newest act, the Nex Generation (TNG).

New Times: Freestyle became this huge genre in Florida, New York, California, Texas, and now around the world, but you actually invented the name and style in Miami, right?
Pretty Tony: Yeah, that's right. I had to come up with a name for this group I formed and the unique sound I had for it. Freestyle is what I came up with, and after that, it became a whole genre of music.

I did all the stuff. I wrote it, I played it, I changed the members of the group. It was the same concept as the group Menudo.

You had different writers and stuff too, right?
I was the writer or the co-writer on everything, and I did all the music. But I had two guys writing lyrics sometimes, Garfield Baker and Byron Smith. They wasn't the first members of the group, though. I had the group three years before I met those dudes. Look up the song Summer Delight. That was like 1981, and I met them in 1984. They was young, so they knew all the street lingo the kids were using. So they did the lyrics, part of the lyrics. They were kids; I used to drop em off in the morning at school.

None of em' had a fuckin' hit since me. Garfield and Byron, to keep it 100, they came up with what they came up with, but c'mon, dawg. I been kept selling these millions of records, and they haven't had a hit since working with me, so if it was so much them, what happened?

They wasn't really writers, but they knew what was hot in the streets. I put it in song form.

They were going out on tour and getting money. I said, "You need to learn how to do something. Learn how to play keyboards, be useful in the studio, not just go out and get bread."

That's why I never did a whole album on them. I'm givin' it to you blood raw. They wanna do an interview with you saying they sold all these drugs and all that? Dawg, y'all was in 11th grade.

I used to drop em' off at school. That's what they was doing. Everybody wanna be a drug dealer. I'm still all right with them, ya know, but I did everything. And all these platinum records later, I still do. I ain't mad at em'.

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