The emcee/producer born Shaun Fequiere’s death comes after he revealed he was battling stage 4 colon cancer; he was first diagnosed in February 2021; in late November, Kangol Kid shared a photo of his fellow rapper LL Cool J visiting him at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York, where he recently underwent surgery.
“Please forgive me for not returning calls and more,” Kangol Kid wrote at the time. “Things have become, and are becoming a little more difficult than imagined. I’ve been admitted again for complications related to my condition. Thank you to those who have been instrumental in my latest ordeal. Your actions have been well received and greatly appreciated. I am blessed to have you by my side through this. I love you all.”
LL Cool J’s Rock the Bells fest tweeted, “Hip-Hop lost a legend today with the transitioning of [Kangol Kid] but his legacy will forever serve as a source of inspiration, courage, and love. Rock The Bells sends our deepest condolences to all of his family and loved ones.”
UTFO are best known for their 1984 single “Roxanne, Roxanne,” with the Kangol Kid delivering the first verse in what soon after launched “The Roxanne Wars,” a series of answer songs headlined by Marley Marl’s then-14-year-old protege Roxanne Shante. The track — and Shante’s response — both appear on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time list.
“Hip-hop’s first beef war started innocently enough. In 1984, Brooklyn trio UTFO released a lackluster single called ‘Hanging Out.’ Its B side, however, caused a sensation: “Roxanne, Roxanne,” an irresistible jam where the peacocking guys in UTFO get repeatedly shot down by a “stuck-up” hottie,” Rolling Stone wrote of the track. “Soon the New York hip-hop market was overrun with jams like ‘Sparky’s Turn (Roxanne You’re Through)’ and the unforgettable ‘Roxanne’s a Man (The Untold Story).'” In total, the rivalry spawned between 30 and 100 answer songs.
“She was walking down the street so I said ‘Hello I’m Kangol from UTFO.’ And she said ‘So?,'” Kangol Kid — named after his go-to headwear — says at the onset. “Roxanne, Roxanne” quickly became a hit, but that success was undercut by Shante’s response track, “Roxanne’s Revenge.”
“He wears a Kangol, and that is true / But he ain’t got money, and he ain’t got the loot,” Shanté fired back at the rapper. (“My name’s just startin’ to blow up a little bit – and someone’s shooting me down,” Kangol Kid once quipped.)
Questlove placed “Roxanne, Roxanne” at Number 37 on his personal list of the 50 best hip-hop songs that he authored for Rolling Stone. “Historians always note this as the seed that spawned a thousand responses,” he said of the track. “But I never hear historians noting this was the first hip-hop song that sampled a breakbeat: Billy Squier’s ‘The Big Beat.'”
On Instagram Saturday, the Roots drummer penned a lengthy tribute to Kangol Kid, “A major major tremendous loss to family, friends, & music lovers everywhere.”
The rivalry and oversaturated “Roxanne Wars” finally dissipated with UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne, Pt. 2: Calling Her A Crab,” which featured on the group’s self-titled 1985 LP. Although UTFO never matched the commercial success of “Roxanne, Roxanne,” they continued to be pioneers in the genre, even collaborating with heavy metal band Anthrax on 1987’s “Lethal.
The track also inspired a generation of future rappers: As Ludacris told Rolling Stone in 2003, his first musical memory was “when my dad bought me the UTFO. record ‘Roxanne, Roxanne.’ I was about five or six, it was on vinyl, and I just loved the hell out of that song. That made me want to rap.”