Released in 1984, UTFO’s ‘Roxanne Roxanne’, a song launching a verbal attack upon a fictional character who refused the advances of the group, was a surprise hit thanks largely to its frequent airplay on New York radio. In fact the b-side of UTFO’s single ‘Hanging Out’, the track triumphed over its a-side counterpart in popularity and unwittingly started one of hip hop’s first (and arguably most famous) battles to be played out on wax. Over the following year literally dozens of records would be released in what became known as the ‘Roxanne Wars’.
‘Roxanne Roxanne’ may have been limited to a hip hop footnote however were it not for Juice Crew affiliate Roxanne Shante (pictured) siezing the opportunity to capitalise on the popularity of UTFO’s original song with the Marley Marl produced ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’. Roxanne’s original profanity laden response was an instant hit. Rumoured to have sold of 250,000 copies in the New York area alone, the track used the instrumental version of UTFO’s original track as its backing. Following legal action from UTFO’s record label, the track was eventually re-released in early 1985 with a new Marley Marl produced instrumental replacing the original and profanities toned down.
Not prepared to let Shante have the last word on the matter, a third record in the series, UTFO and Full Force’s ‘The Real Roxanne’ was released later that year in response to Shante’s track. The role of the ‘Real Roxanne’ on the record was played by relative unknown Elease Jack although female rapper Adelaia Martinez later took on the moniker and enjoyed a successful recording career using the name including, most notably, the 1986 Howie Tee produced hit ‘Bang Zoom Let’s Go’.
What happened next, however could not have been predicted. Estimates vary, but over the following year anywhere between 30 and 100 follow up records were released by artists in most cases unconnected with the original call and response giving their stance on the Roxanne story or alternative fictional tales of Roxanne’s exploits. Some of the more notable releases are listed below:
Sparky D - Sparky’s Turn (Roxanne, You’re Through)
Dr Freshh - Roxanne’s Doctor The Real Man
Dr Rocx & Co - Do the Roxanne
Gigolo Tony & Lacey Lace - The Parents of Roxanne
Tanganyika - I’m Lil Roxanne
Crush Groove - Yo, My Little Sister (Roxanne’s Brothers)
DW and the Party Crew featuring Roxy - Rappin’ Roxy: Roxanne’s Sister
Ralph Rolle - Roxanne’s a Man (The Untold Story—Final Chapter)
The East Coast Crew - The Final Word: No More Roxanne (Please)
UTFO - Roxanne, Roxanne, Pt. 2: Calling Her a Crab
Roxanne Shanté - Queen of Rox
Roxanne Shanté and Sparky D - Round 1: Roxanne Shanté Vs. Sparky Dee