The "Roxanne" Wars
Lolita Shanté Gooden, a 14-year-old aspiring emcee, was walking through the Queensbridge housing project in 1984 when she overheard her neighbors, record producer Marley Marl and disc jockey Mr. Magic, complaining about the hip hop collective UTFO. The group had pulled out of an upcoming show they were promoting, leaving the two men in a lurch. Gooden offered to get back at the group by writing a diss track, and despite her tender age, the men agreed.
For a beat, they borrowed the instrumental track from UTFO's "Roxanne, Roxanne," the B side to their recent single "Hanging Out." The original song told the tale of the band having their romantic advances cruelly rebuffed by a woman named Roxanne, so Gooden assumed the identity of the titular heartbreaker to record a less-than-flattering answer track. Dubbed "Roxanne's Revenge," the young rapper reportedly freestyled her obscenity-laden verse in just one take, done in Marl's apartment. To complete the ruse, the song was released under the name Roxanne Shanté.
It caught fire immediately, becoming a sizable radio hit and selling 5,000 copies almost overnight. The chastised UTFO did the only thing they could do – they shot back with a song of their own. Enlisting Elease Jack (later replaced by Adelaida Martinez), they created the character of "the Real Roxanne," and together recorded a song of the same name. It wasn't exactly an all-out verbal assault on Shanté – presumably going in on a teenage girl was frowned upon – but the challenge to her authenticity was just as effective.
Given the chart success of the Roxanne songs, many rappers recognized an opportunity for some easy airplay and jumped into the fray. Over the coming year, more than 30 (and some say as many as 100) tracks were released, with MCs portraying all manner of Roxanne associates telling their sides of the story. Her relatives weighed in with tracks like "The Parents of Roxanne" by Gigolo Tony and Lacey Lace, "Yo, My Little Sister (Roxanne's Brothers)" by Crush Groove, and "Rappin' Roxy: Roxanne's Sister" by D.W. and the Party Crew featuring Roxy. After exhausting her family tree, even her physician got some play on "Roxanne's Doctor – The Real Man" by Dr. Freshh.
Roxanne fatigue eventually set in, as evidenced by the East Coast Crew's trend-killing "The Final Word – No More Roxanne (Please)," but UTFO and Shanté had some unfinished business. The group swung first with "Roxanne, Roxanne, Pt. 2: Calling Her A Crab," a downright dirty track, on which they called their rival an "ape" and offered her bananas to stop rapping. Shanté, meanwhile, asserted her status as rap feud royalty on "Queen of Rox." From there, the inferno died away.