The Roxanne War: Complete Chronology of Hip Hop’s Greatest Saga
Right as I entered college in the fall of ’84, you commonly heard the refrain of two electronic sounds followed by “ROXANNE, ROXANNE” on the radio. Seemed like just another record, though it was interesting with the back and forth bantering between the trio of rappers, as they tell of their frustration trying to get this girl (before the age where women rapped about were “bitches” or “ho’s”, and a nice alternative to the aggressive “ego” style that was taking over at the time).
It consisted of three parts, for each of the three rappers. The second part, by the Educated Rapper, reusing the percussion from a rock song called the “The Big Beat” which was earlier used by Cold Crush, (and with scratching sounds added to every second line) was unique in consisting mostly of half-line rhymes. Each line contains a sub-rhyme, rhyming with the second line it is paired with.
This would occasionally create a cool hook in a rap, such as Flash’s “And the kids smoke reefer; I think it’d be cheaper, to just get a job learning to be a street sweeper”, or Run’s “You’re bitin’ for your life’ cheatin’ on your wife; walk around town like a hoodlum with a knife”; but Educated Rapper created a whole block of about seven of these pairs in a row! Plus his whole “educated” theme, with all his big words was something new, along with the third guy, Doctor Ice’s “medical” theme.
When I was home for Thanksgiving or Christmas, this young girl had put out a vulgar response (very light compared to later raps, and the curses bleeped out), which I thought was funny (“you’re walking down the block, holding your [bleep]; and everybody knows that you’re all on my yacht”; didn’t even know what that last word was until someone posted the lyrics online), but still didn’t think that much of it. It reminded me of that year’s earlier “late-disco” hit “Somebody Else’s Guy” (Jocelyn Brown), which had a male response answering why he was “Someone Else’s Guy”.
It was when I got back to school from Christmas break (in the new year), a second female response began playing on the radio. It more faithfully followed the pattern of the original record. Turned out it was written by the original producers, to counter that first, unauthorized response. But before I knew this, and I thought it too was unauthorized, I died laughing at some of the lines. Especially the second part, answering Educated Rapper:
Educated Rapper I’mo give you a fit,
because when you tried to talk to me, you was full of ____
You see the truth of the fact is that I don’t need you
YOUR IQ IS REALLY 1.2!
I don’t like your rap ’cause your rap is DEAD
Educated rapper, no sense in your head
So when I met you, I didn’t waste my time
Dictionary-breath, you’re one of a kind
You said your name was Gary; didn’t choose to call you Barry;
Didn’t care if your name, was Mother Mata Hari
I choose to call you “Sonny”, because you have a tummy;
My father’s not a fairy; you’re the one who walks so funny
You’re nose is always runny; you look like Bugs Bunny
All your raps are old; ancient as a mummy
Your house is so slummy; your clothes are so bummy
But now with your hit record, all I want is your money
Educated Rapper, you ain’t nothing but a dummy
You try to be chummy; all you play is gin rummy
I bet making love to you must really be crummy
You say it’s customary, to give your commentary
I say it’s crap, and full of strawberries
Your rap is so weak and your face is so scary;
you’ll always find a rap like yours in any cemetary
So do you know, you didn’t even pass;
All you received was a kick in the ___
That’s what you get, because I had enough;
ain’t that right MixMaster ICE CREAM PUFF!
Man; one ROFL jab right after the other! The first time I heard this, almost fell off my bunk bed! I’m still chuckling away now, typing it out!
It seemed to be the first time a response went beyond the second record. Something big was obviously taking off.
So after all this, I sort of felt sorry for the guys, and hoped they’d respond. I for a moment thought they did when a new record came out with male voices, saying something about Roxanne, but this turned out to be just the backup vocals for this third female who comes out of nowhere, and defends the guys against the first Roxanne (15 year old Lolita Gooden, who went by her middle name, Shanté), whom she accurately described “you sound like you’re fresh out of junior high school…” [hence, “It’s good you stood them up, or they’d be in jail”).
But then why are you dissing her and defending them? Also, she built up an attack by mis-hearing Shanté as having “asked Doc Ice what MC’s should do”, when what Shanté had actually said was (Spoofing Ice’s original line) “He said ‘you call yourself an MC’; I said ‘this is true’; HE said “explain to me really what MC’s must do…”.
So I did not like her, and at this point took Roxanne’s side in the battle. Particularly Shanté, who I liked for the same reason I was coming to like Scrappy Doo around the same time. Someone rambunctious who bursts on the scene, challenging status-quo’s.
Next, came another dis against Roxanne, by a guy claiming to be her doctor. (Again, why would he dis her?)
By now, it was clear a war was in full blast, and in my typical Aspie way, became obsessed with the saga, (in-between my neverending longing for Drake’s Cakes; unavailable in VA, and the next Stevie Wonder album).
I tried to collect as many of them as I could on tape, but only got the first four, and clips of Roxanne’s Doctor and the whole tracks of the later Roxanne’s Parents and Roxanne’s a Man.
Rock group The Police’s 70’s hit “Roxanne” was apparently rereleased as a single around this time, and when the local station got the record (never played it) and showed it to me one day when I asked if they had any new Roxanne records, I at first thought it might be another entry in the series until I saw who the group was.
Toward the end, I would hear there were up to 30 records, and sometimes you would even hear of over 100! The radio stations had stopped playing them, and I didn’t even see all this stuff in record stores, and wondered what and where they all were.
Forward to the Internet Age, as a new Wikipedian several years ago, one day running across an article of the similar “Bridge Wars” (which I then contributed heavily to), I then created from scratch the “Roxanne Wars” article:
I listed the records I knew of, with as many online source references as I could find, which were very scant at the time (and luckily didn’t get any flack for this “original research”, as I would when later recreating the LL/Kool Moe Dee battle article which “deletionists” had previously taken down, being very picky on the sources). Then, other editors began adding all the other records, which I had never heard of before.
More recently, with YouTube becoming an everyday thing, and many of the records appearing there; I got the idea to use those as references. Today, I managed to get references of some sort for the rest that are listed!
30 seems more likely, and that’s exactly what I’ve gathered here. (Counting UTFO’s “Calling Her a Crab”, but not counting the three other “aftermath” records after it; and also counting both versions of “Roxanne’s Revenge” as one). Any “hundred” may be counting mix records, and stuff like that. (A few of those are here, because they have “Roxanne” in the title, but beyond that, mixes wouldn’t really count).
So this may well be ALL of them!
So just now, I figured I might as well make my own blog entry out of it. Since the videos are not embedded on Wikipedia, this would be the better “one-stop shop” for the entire Roxanne saga! (Plus, this makes it easier to keep track of whether videos have been deleted or not, since here you can readily see them on the page).
Thankfully, there was only one YT video that had been deleted, yet another video of the same track was still up, so all of the ones I had gathered before are still available:
So nice to have access to all this stuff again (including a bunch I had never heard); much of it seemingly lost and forgotten forever!
Here begins the saga:
1) The rap that started it all: Roxanne Roxanne By UTFO
2) The original Roxanne’s Revenge
—(The one I first heard in NYC on vacation).
2a) The “clean” version with the original beats replaced due to legal action:
When I arrived back to school, with the local radio station WOWI-FM, (right near the campus), this is the only one I would hear, and I vaguely remembered the original and wanted to hear it again. A lot of stuff had been cut out or reworded, and it sounded like it had been hacked to pieces. I did catch it again once on the rival AM station WRAP, which I didn’t listen to as much.
I eventually got the original again on tape from someone. This was actually an apparently rare version, which included the later line about turning them down, without a frown, embarrassing them in front of their friends, and making them look like a clown. This was in the second version and omitted from the first that usually played, but there was a version of the original with it. The second version, however, omits the comparison of DJ MixMaster Ice with Shanté’s Marley Marl.
Seven years later and afterward, I would often jokingly recite the line “Take you home, and make you relax” to my wife, for some reason.
3) The Real Roxanne:
What should be known is that this is NOT Adelaide Martinez, who took over afterward. This misinformation was becoming almost universal, including in the Wikipedia article. I had long heard something about there being a different girl in the beginning. And the voice did seem to change, I remember even when I was still down in college, and “The Real Roxanne” had spun off as a separate rap act in her own right, with a second and third record (when she hooked up with DJ Howie Tee). I had thought the first voice was softer and more feminine, while the second one sounded rougher.
With no references or even a name at all, I couldn’t even mention the voice change in the article, yet soon, someone in the article’s talk page did give a name: Elease Jacks; but still no references anywhere. Eventually, one finally came up, on this blog entry: http://strictlybusinesshiphop.blogspot.com/2011/05/roxanne-wars.html (originally posted 2009/05), and I was finally able to add the info.
Here now is the rest of the battle (next two in sequence; others not sure of release order):
4) “Sparky’s Turn (Roxanne, You’re Through)”
A feisty female (I originally thought it was “Spunky D”) who criticizes Roxanne (Shanté, in particular) for dissing UTFO, as well as being too young, both for them to pursue, and to be an MC. It eventually does address both “Roxanne 1 and Roxanne 2”.
Even though the record defended UTFO, they were reportedly not appreciative of this additional unauthorized response. It was after this that the saga really took off.
5) “Roxanne’s Doctor-The Real Man” by Dr. Freshh,
Also insulted Roxanne for having “no class”. For some reason, this did not play as much as others. At least not on the station I was listening to.
6) “Do the Roxanne” by Dr. Rocx & Co.
Created a dance based on Roxanne. (Referred to Shanté’s “cracky wacky voice”, as Sparky D had described it in her record). A rare instance of a record in the series not aimed at dissing someone.
I found it funny that one girl in the rap actually sounded like Sparky D while another sounded like Shanté. [I see now, that this is an instrumental version. Will have to look and see if the vocal version is up anywhere]
This played fairly well, though after this, it would become very hard to catch new acts on the radio. This is around the time they began saying “ENOUGH already!”.
7) “The Parents of Roxanne” by Gigolo Tony & Lacey Lace
Answers both UTFO and Sparky D. It drew references from both “Roxanne’s Revenge” and “The Real Roxanne” as if both represented the true Roxanne.
Liked this one a lot, for going after Sparky:
“And your female rapper; what does she want to do; saying who can hang with the Sparky D crew; and what she said wasn’t even cool; when she called my baby girl a fool. And saying that they would have dumped her in the sand; we’ll she’s only jealous ’cause she can’t get a man; now Mona, Lisa, City Slim, MoeSki; I said all ya good for, is climbing a tree; now you are the ones, that are through. You need to go back, and swing in a zoo…”,
And I remembered the whole thing by heart. Didn’t hear it much, and was lucky to get it on tape from someone.
(The first two responses are the only other ones from this series I remember all the words to. I even contributed the words to this one to the Original Hip Hop Lyrics Archives (ohhla.com), along with Poet’s two entries in the Bridge Wars, and the Dismasters’ “Hustler”, which is another catchy rap I remembered all the words to).
8) “Yo, My Little Sister (Roxanne’s Brothers)” by Crush Groove
(No relation to “Krush Groove” of Run-DMC/Russell Simmons fame).
Answered UTFO, Sparky D, and Dr. Freshh.
Caught parts of this on someone’s radio in college, never heard it again (had really wanted it, too), until it finally showed up on YouTube.
9) “Rappin’ Roxy: Roxanne’s Sister” by D.W. and the Party Crew featuring Roxy
Bites several whole lines from “The Real Roxanne”, in attacking both UTFO and Sparky D.
Same as the previous one, caught parts of it once in college.
10) “Roxanne’s a Man (The Untold Story—Final Chapter)” by Ralph Rolle
Claimed that Roxanne was actually a man who had basically “had his ‘manhood’ taken” in prison (made the mistake of not using “soap on a rope”) and then became a trans-woman after his release; and insults UTFO for not realizing this. “you’re not a doc; not even a quack, trying to talk to something that looks like that; and if you were a doc, you’d be a vet. Talking to a girl who could be a housepet” … “You must be blind in one eye; the other one glass; getting all high watching Roxanne’s ___”
So now, we have someone actually dissing both sides of the dispute!
This one I heard on the radio a lot, and was able to tape it. The previous three must have been on other stations, or underground or something.
11) Doctor JR Kool – Rap Your Own Roxanne
—Electronic instrumental dance record. Never heard it until now, but knew about it back then, since it was included on “The Compleat Roxanne” collection album (cover shown in video, and which I passed up back then, because it left out a lot of the other records I was looking for, and was primarily the first few up to Dr. Freshh and a few other miscellaneous tracks).
Imagine, a record essentially encouraging others to make new responses!
Here are the ones I’ve never heard of at all until others added them to Wikipedia:
12) Anthony – Roxanne Is A Man
While I heard and had recorded the first one (#10, above), I never heard of this one
13) “I’m Lil Roxanne” by Tanganyika
A record by the then young artist named Tanganyika stating that she was the younger version of the original Roxanne.
14) DJ Spin Kut – Roxanne Girls Mega Mix 2
—(Clips from the various records mixed together)
15) Maggotron – Planet Detroit vs. The Roxanne Plague
—(Mostly an electronic dance track)
16) Potato Chips – Roxanne’s Real Fat
17) Ricardo & Chocolate Boogie – Do It Ricardo (Roxanne’s Man)
18) Rocksann – She Died
19) The Invasions – Roxanne’s Dis
20) The Overnite Bandits – Roxanne’s Baby
21) Mix-Trix 4 – Roxanne Can You Feel It
Just a mixtape record featuring the “Roxanne Roxanne” beat with many other raps from the time
22) The Invasions – Roxanne’s Man
Downloadable version: http://musparade.com/album/The+Invasions/Roxannes+Man
A guy claiming to be Roxanne’s man (and his crew) disses UTFO
23) Korner Boyz – The Saga Of Roxanne
Download able version: http://crewelectro.blogspot.com/2010/03/full-12-korner-boyz-saga-of-roxanne-its.html
Claims Roxanne’s a “one night stand”. (They sound a lot like Run-DMC, and seem to call themselves “Cold Crush” as well).
24) Zelee featuring Osé – No More Roxanne (Roxanne No More)
25) “The Final Word – No More Roxanne (Please)” by The East Coast Crew
Downloadable version: http://www.discogs.com/East-Coast-Crew-The-Final-Word-No-More-Roxanne-Please/release/722773
Laments all the Roxanne records, mentioning several of them, and pleading for no more.
Others that can be downloaded:
26) G-Mann – Roxanne (Is My Girl)
27) Blowfly – Blowfly meets Roxanne
(Explicit underground record)
28) Starrlite – Watch Out Roxanne
(they seemed to have a stream of it, but it doesn’t play for me).
No video or audio are available, but you can see the actual vinyl record:
29) “Ice Roxanne – Little Ice” Another answer to Roxanne Shanté by a young female (Aishah Baum) who bites the entire “Roxanne’s Revenge” line “Roxanne needs a man, eh, yes; someone fresh who’s always dressed; someone yes, who will never fess, and then I’ll say yeah, ___ the rest”, and then tells her to “make up her mind”. (Another one I heard once, and for awhile couldn’t find anything on. Discogs has the record, though: http://www.discogs.com/Little-Ice-Ice-Roxanne/release/3325225).
You would also occasionally hear of stuff like “Roxanne’s Dog”, but that is probably not real; just a sarcastic exaggeration of how extensive the responses became. “Roxanne’s Grandma” was a mockery thrown in at the very end of Ralph Rolle’s “Roxanne’s a Man”, and I don’t think ever had its own title.
In due time, about mid-1985, the “Roxanne” trend had run its course, and the response records finally died down; however, the battle continued amongst its core group of players:
30) UTFO finally added a response of their own; “Roxanne, Roxanne, Pt. 2: Calling Her a Crab”
Considering UTFO produced the Real Roxanne to counter Shanté, it was ironic that this one also aimed loosely at Shanté (Kangol Kid: “I got a name of a hat, as I recall…” drawing from a line at the beginning of “Roxanne’s Revenge”), in which they took back all the compliments they had given to Roxanne in the first record, give out insults instead (“you’re not an apple or a pear; you’re a bum on a beach”, etc); basically claiming to have never really liked her in the first place.
While this is what I had waited for immediately after The Real Roxanne, (And only got Sparky and all the others instead), by this time, I didn’t like it; since coming to root for Roxanne as I said; plus the false frontin’ that they never liked her at all. I had hoped Shanté or perhaps one of the Roxanne “relatives”; or maybe a collaboration of all of them, would respond, and that would be the “final” record, but instead, all we got from Shanté was:
•“Queen of Rox”
Tells the story of “how she got so fresh,” and faced “a little bit of hassle from UTFO about saying, yes, that I’m Roxanne,” and then takes a jab at the Real Roxanne (“Yeah, I seen that girl—she got a face like a man!”). The first time one of them went directly after the other.
• In “Bite This”, Shanté dissed other MCs, including “the Real Roxanne, Sparky D, and all the other Roxannes imitating me”, and then even goes after Run-DMC and Kurtis Blow! (Liked that, as I hated that whole egotistical “Kings of Rap” nonsense they were propagating in their “Krush Groove” era heyday).
• Then, there was the one-on-one battle between Shanté and Sparky D:
“Round 1 – Roxanne Shanté Vs. Sparky Dee.”
The album cover had a picture of both women challenging each other wearing boxing gloves — seen in video.
(Nice to see Shanté finally give a real answer to Sparky! Sparky would later go against her own crew in battle!)
Right as this war died down, a similar but more brief scenario was arising with the hit record “The Show” by burgeoning rapper Doug E. Fresh (in my opinion, one of the best rap ideas ever, with the back and forth comedic dialogue with Slick Rick). So then, Salt-n-Pepa introduce themselves (calling themselves “Supernature” in this first record) by throwing together a combined response to The Show and its B-Side “La-Di-Da-Di”, and sold it to the same Pop Art label Shanté was on.
Like Full Force before them with The Real Roxanne, Doug E Fresh’s label produced their own response “No Show” (“Hey, yo [forget name] — look at Dougie’s shoe’s; oh snap, they got a hole I can see right through; better buy some Elmer’s glue. Sorry Dougie, Sorry Dougie, sorry but your shoes are through; thr-thr-through…”, etc).
Shanté jumped in, introducing Biz Markie in the live concert “Wash Your Body” parody of LaDiDaDi I heard once, but it didn’t go any further than that.
Then, in a vein eerily similar to Roxanne, LL Cool J’s “Dear Yvette” got a similar “-Revenge” titled response from an “E-Vette Money”. That too went no further, other than Kurtis Blow referencing both this and “the Real Roxanne” in defense of rap women, in “I’m Chillin'”. (What a difference from what was coming! He had dropped out of the scene by the time mysogyny had taken completely over a few years later).
Several others would begin going after LL (including Shanté/Marley protégé MC Shan), and then, of course, the biggest battle for him, with Kool Moe Dee.
There was also The Boogie Boys “Fly Girl” answered by Pebblee Poo, and Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s “Girls Ain’t Nothing But Trouble”, which got a response they produced and rapped in, by a girl named “Ice Cream Tee”, (who I thought sounded a lot like Elease).
The biggest successor to the Roxanne war was The Bridge Wars, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Bridge_Wars (in which Shanté, as a member of Marley Marl’s “Juice Crew”, was loosely involved; hence it sort of being a successor). The tables were now turned, because this time it was a hit record produced by Mr. Magic and Marley Marl (MC Shan’s “The Bridge”) that garnered a response, sparking off a whole new battle saga.
Eventually, both Roxannes essentially drop the name, with Lolita continuing to go by “Shanté”, of course, and Adelaide putting out a final record “Roxanne S*** Is Over”, where she calls herself “Jo-Anne with the plan”. Shanté around the same time took another parting swipe at her, yet granting her the name “Roxanne”, though keeping “the Rox” for herself (“Remember shows with Kane and Biz Markie; F***ing up Roxanne, and taking out Sparky. N****s used to flock from block to block, to watch the Rox knock b****es out the box”), in “Big Mama”. (She then directs all her dissing energies at the that time biggest female stars Latifah, Monie, Yoyo, and a crude reference to MC Lyte. As they would respond, and Shanté would not even respond back; I lost total respect for her. Especially after how relatively soft she had been on Sparky and KRS, who are the ones who had started with her and should have been dissed that hard).
This is 1992 already, and by now, mysogynistic language, increased uncensored vulgarity and even violent words had taken completely over.
She likewise retired from the business a few years afterward, and is now a clinical psychologist. (I always say it would be so interesting if she and my wife ever ended up working together).
Her name will come up every now and then in a news story (like just a few days ago), from something altruistic she’s doing, IIRC involving stuff like breast cancer awareness.
Here’s a documentary video on the whole war:
Wow; this whole thing is going to become 30 years old soon!
Much more recently (1999) we got sort of a throwback to this type of intersex record battle when TLC’s “Scrubs” was responded to by Sporty Theivz’s “Pigeons”. (The latter group also made other responses to female group hit singles).