Have you seen Beef: The MC Battle? It’s a damn tight documentary on the history of various arguments between such artists as KRS-One and Nas, East Coast and West Coast rappers and dozens of others I’m too lazy to google and can’t seem to recall off the top of my head. In the spirit of Old Skool Reviews, however, I’m going to take a brief moment to highlight my personal favorite, lovingly titled The Roxanne Rap Battles.
Picture if you will a time when MCs actually used words to settle differences, as opposed to guns, violence and assorted other ass-crackery in play today. UTFO had just dropped a new single, “Hanging Out,” to very little fanfare. The B-Side, however, “Roxanne, Roxanne,” became somewhat of a hit. It’s a simple song over a then standard drum beat, with lyrics about the various members of the group trying, and failing, to woo a fictional Roxanne. Enter one Lolita Shanté Gooden, who overheard local promoters Marley Marl, DJ MR. Magic and Tyrone Williams griping on the radio about how UTFO had failed to make an appearance at a concert they had just held. Shante approaced the trio and thus was born “Roxanne Shante” and the beginning of this illustrious battle. Lest I forget to mention, Shante was 14 at the time.
From there, somewhere between 30 and 100 (depending on your source) different “response” tracks were recorded. Many claimed to be the Roxanne in the song, some played her siblings, some her parents, some haters, some on her side. UTFO even threw out a couple more tracks of their own on the subject, introducing The Real Roxanne to the mix. Keep in mind, THIS ALL WAS IN RESPONSE TO A FICTITIOUS CHARACTER ON A B-SIDE! Ah, the good old days of rap.
For a much, much, MUCH deeper delving into the situation, check out the numerous posts on the subject over at Fat Lace Magazine.
*Interesting side note–Roxanne Shante put out a couple of resulting albums, but never made any real money. She found a seldom used clause in her Warner Bros. contract, though, and they ended up paying for her entire education. She just got her PhD.
*Slightly less interesting side note–For roughly 20 years, I mistakenly believed The Real Roxanne was actually Roxanne Shante. You learn something new every day, I suppose.
mp3: Roxanne, Roxanne (UTFO)
mp3: Roxanne’s Revenge (Roxanne Shante)
mp3: The Real Roxanne (The Real Roxanne)