TKA is a Latin freestyle trio that was prominent in the 1980s and early 1990s, mainly in New York City, Chicago and Miami, Florida. Its members originally were Tony Ortiz, Louis “Kayel” Sharpe, and “Aby” Cruz—the original lead singer. Due to tension within the group between Kayel and Aby, the latter was later replaced by Angel “Love” Vasquez, which allowed Kayel to assume the lead vocals. The acronym TKA represents their collective initials. Early on, the group’s members would state in interviews that the acronym stood for “Tony . Kayel and Aby ” as well. All of TKA’s members are of Puerto Rican descent. Many Freestyle fans consider them the kings of that genre, although Kayel seemingly downplayed this label, having jokingly stated “There are no kings in freestyle. There is only one king in it—myself.”
Hailing from New York City, TKA was discovered when it sang at a sweet sixteen party in an East Harlem church in 1984. Record producer and manager Joey Gardner, who attended the party, was impressed with the trio, and, with his help, signed with Tommy Boy Records. The group originally consisted of Tony, Kayel, and Ralph ” Aby” Cruz—who was replaced by Angel Vasquez after the release of the single “Tears May Fall”. Although not widely known, India was a member of the group in its earliest days, as well. The group’s first single was “One Way Love”, a major hit in the Latin club communities of New York, Chicago and Miami, which was followed by “Come Get My Love”. An album was then recorded, titled Scars of Love, which included the first two singles. The title track was then released as a single, followed by “Tears May Fall”, “X-Ray Vision”, and “Don’t Be Afraid”.
In 1989, the soundtrack of the film Lean on Me featured the single “You Are the One”, which hit #91 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The album Louder Than Love was released in 1990, accompanied by its first single, “I Won’t Give Up on You”, a slick contemporary R&B groove that was quite a departure from their earlier material, stylistically. 1991 saw even more diversity of sound with the release of the singles “Crash (Have Some Fun)”, a house music hit that featured a hip hop vocal by Michelle Visage of the group Seduction; “Give Your Love to Me” produced by Platinum producer Frankie Cutlass and “Louder Than Love”.
That same year the trio also performed the song “Are You For Real” on the popular syndicated television program It’s Showtime at the Apollo.
As a result of Freestyle’s waning popularity as a new age of music dawned, the trio stopped recording soon after the single “Louder Than Love” was released. A greatest hits package was released in 1992, with a new track, “Maria”, which was released as a single.
Following the split, the members of TKA went on to pursue independent interests. Kayel recorded under the name K7 and had a hit hip-hop album called Swing, Batta, Swing, which contained the hit singles “Zunga Zeng” produced by Platinum Producer Frankie Cutlass (which interpolated and was loosely based on Reggae legend Yellowman’s 1983 early Dancehall hit “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng”); “Come, Baby, Come”; and the Cab Calloway-influenced “Hi De Ho”. Tony established a production company in New York, and Angel formed the contemporary R&B group Goodfellaz.
The trio got back together in 2001 and recorded the album Forever, which was released by Tommy Boy shortly before that company ended its joint venture with Warner Bros. Records. Some time later, Kayel was replaced by Aby. TKA, presently consisting of Tony, Aby, and Angel – as the current lead singer, are still performing together.