The Beginning - "Roxanne's Revenge"
When we think of answer records in Hip-Hop, one of the first that comes to mind is Queensbridge battle MC Roxanne Shanté's groundbreaking Marley Marl-produced hit, "Roxanne's Revenge," which is regarded as rap music's first diss record. "Roxanne's Revenge" which was an answer to U.T.F.O.'s wildly popular 1984 hit, "Roxanne, Roxanne" set off the "Roxanne Wars." Over a dozen answer records were released including "Roxanne's Parents," "Roxanne's Doctor" and even "Roxanne's Baby." Although most of these replies were obvious cash grabs by fly-by-night artists and labels, many of these replies were the opportunity for a come up and entry into an industry that wasn't easy to crack.
One year before "Roxanne's Revenge," another Marley Marl protege and Queensbridge resident, Dimples D, released "Sucker DJ's" which was an answer to Run-DMC's "Sucker MC's."
Sparky D and her Spyder D produced "Sparky's Turn (Roxanne You're Through)" which is the perfect example of a legitimate MC who saw an opportunity to ride the wave of U.T.F.O.'s hit. Even Shanté herself adopted the "Roxanne" moniker only after Queensbridge legend DJ Marley Marl suggested that she rap over U.T.F.O. and Full Force's "Big Beat" inspired instrumental.
Cold Chillin' Records co-founder and Shanté's manager Tyrone "Fly Ty" Williams told The Foundation that "Roxanne's Revenge" wasn't even supposed to be a record — when it originally aired on New York's WBLS it was just a demo tape.
"Shanté made a tape with Marley dissing U.T.F.O. It was just a tape," he said. "When we went to WDAS in Philly, we played it and Dana Goodman of Pop Art Records loved it. He wanted to know what label it was on. We told him that it was just a tape. We gave him the tape and they pressed it up. We didn't have any paperwork, no deal, nothing. You can even hear the famous 'world premiere' intro."
These records were sometimes light hearted disses, and were almost always humorous.
For a time in the mid-'80s, answer records were very popular in Hip-Hop. These records were often light-hearted disses and were almost always humorous. Because drum machines were the preferred method of production in the 80s, and they were generally affordable and accessible, it was easy to program the same beat as the person that an artist was answering. Again, these records were an extremely useful method to get put on within the rap industry at the time.
"I originally wanted to answer another record before 'The Show,' and I can’t remember what it was," he said. "I couldn’t find any girls. There weren’t many girls who rapped and I didn’t know any, so I had to make them!"
Check out 12 dope answer records from the mid-80s.
1. "Roxanne's Revenge" - Roxanne Shanté, 1984
"Roxanne's Revenge" was the big bang that took Roxanne Shante' from the Queensbridge Houses and put her on the world stage. The answer record not only helped the sales and popularity of U.T.F.O.'s already popular hit, but it spawned almost two dozen response records, and just as many fly-by-night labels. The genius of Shantè's response is that the producers of "Roxanne, Roxanne" had already found a Roxanne of their own to create a response record, but Shantè and Marley Marl beat them to the punch, forcing them to call their Roxanne "The Real" Roxanne. "Roxanne's Revenge" was responsible for launching several careers in addition to Shantè's, and it represents one of Hip-Hop's most fun and vibrant periods.
2. "It's Mine" - Pretty Ricky & Boo Ski, 1985
T La Rock & Jazzy Jay's 1984 underground hit "It's Yours" represented a paradigm shift in rap music. The cadence and vocabulary of T La Rock, the Roland TR 808 generated bass, the sophisticated drum programming and the orchestra-like layers of scratching were new to rap recordings and would be copied for years to come. In 1985, Pretty Ricky and Boo Ski (who were actually labelmates of U.T.F.O. at Select Records) released a response to "It's Yours" titled "It's Mine." As answer records often did, "It's Mine" mimicked the drum pattern, scratching, and cadence of the original, which made it popular amongst DJs who would mix the two versions, creating interesting soundscapes.
3. "E-vette's Revenge" - Yvette Money, 1986
It cannot be stressed enough that the answer record was an effective method of not only securing a record deal, but garnering radio airplay and attention from the fans of the original. If a record made enough noise, it was a good candidate for an answer, and LL COOL J's mid-80s rise to prominence coincided with the popularity of these records. Philadelphia's E-vette Money scored a popular underground record with her response to LL COOL J's 1985 hit "Dear Yvette." E-vette took a page from Roxanne Shanté, as many aspiring recording artists did during this time.
4. "Drink Old Gold "- Mr. X & Mr. Z, 1987
By 1987, the answer record was becoming a thing of the past. Although radio personality and record label owner, Russ Parr, was creating hilarious parody records under the name Bobby Jimmy, which were 100 percent comedic (think Weird Al Yankovic), actual responses by MCs were slowing down. Eric B & Rakim's popularity prompted MR. X and Mr. Z to release "Drink Old Gold," a comedic response to "I Know You Got Soul."
5. "Do The Fila" - MC Boob aka Steady B, 1986
Philadelphia's Steady B, also known as MC Boob, released a string of solid records in the mid-80s. Among the first was an answer to Joe Ski Love's hit "Pee Wee's Dance." Songs about the latest dance crazes were often popular, and Steady B checked three boxes with an answer that was about a dance that was based on a popular sneaker brand. It was always fun to see how close the producers of these records would come to recreating the music from the original, and "Do The Fila" came close.
6. "She's A Skeezer" - Fresh Force (Kid 'N Play), 1986
Like LL COOL J, Run-DMC was extremely popular during the period in which answer records thrived. Their 1986 hit, "My Adidas," was answered by a couple of artists, and one of them was The Fresh Force who later became known as Kid N' Play following their association with Hurby Luv Bug. "She's A Skeezer" was a play on "My Adidas" complete with scratching by Marley Marl and Teddy Ted.
7. "A Fly Guy" - Pebblee Poo, 1985
Pebblee Poo was not at all new to the game when she answered The Boogie Boys' smash hit "A Fly Girl." Pebbles was an MC for DJ Smokey and The Smokatrons, and Kool Herc and she was a member of the Masterdon Committee. When the Masterdon Committee left Enjoy Records, they signed with Profile Records. This is where she dropped 1986's "A Fly Guy."
8. "My Fila" - Fresh Gordon, 1986
Brooklyn producer Fresh Gordon made noise with The Choice MC's and he produced "Push It" for Salt-N-Pepa. Gordon also had a big hit in 1985 with the single "Gordy's Groove"/"The Beat of The Street." In 1986, he answered Run-DMC's "My Adidas" with "My Fila." The song opens with a conversation: "Yo heard about these dudes from Queen's? They can rap and everything but you know what they wear on their feet? Adidas. What I'm wearing on my feet you got to buy two pair of Adidas. They come in all colors and the girls love 'em."
9. Sucker DJ's - Dimples D. 1983
Queensbridge MC Dimples D is Marley Marl's first MC, and her record "Sucker DJ's" is the first record that Marley Marl ever received a credit for. "Sucker DJ's" was an answer to Run-DMC's game changing debut single "Sucker MC's" and is possibly the first ever rap answer record. "Sucker DJ's" is about Dimples going to a party and witnessing a wack DJ, while she boasts of the skills of Marley. "Sucker DJ's" was an underground hit and it received a second life when Dutch remixer and producer Ben Liebrand remixed it in 1990 and added the theme from I Dream of Jeannie scoring a chart topping hit in Europe.
10. "The Parents of Roxanne" - Gigalo Tony And Lace Lacy, 1985
The Roxanne answer records were fun because rap was a young genre and the listeners were youth, but only a select few were worth listening to more than a couple of times. Florida bass legend Gigalo Tony and Lace Lacy released "The Parents of Roxanne" in 1985, and scored one of the better post "Roxanne's Revenge" answer records, complete with dope scratches by DJ Slick Vic.
11. "The Show Stoppa" - Super Nature aka Salt-N-Pepa, 1985
Producer Hurby Luv Bug who was a student of DJ Marley Marl told Rock The Bells that he wanted to follow in Marley's footsteps by producing a female MC's answer to a popular rap record. That answer was "The Show Stoppa," an answer to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick's gargantuan hit "The Show." "The Show Stoppa" was ironically released on the same label as "Roxanne's Revenge" which was Philadelphia's Pop Art Records founded by Lawrence and Ann Goodman.
12. "Take Your Radio" - Steady B
LL COOL J's breakout hit "I Can't Live Without My Radio" was first heard in the movie Krush Groove and it landed him on Soul Train, American Bandstand and everywhere where rap music was broadcasted. It also prompted Steady B to release "Take Your Radio" which was written by MC Shan and released by Pop Art Records, which was an early home to Juice Crew releases.