Black Music Month: The Real Roxanne

June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 14th, 889@Night is highlighting The Real Roxanne.

Born Adelaida Martinez on July 15, 1963, Martinez is a female MC that became known to the world as The Real Roxanne. Her claim to fame is participating in the Roxanne Wars as female rapper Roxanne Shante’s toughest competitor. Martinez was born in Brooklyn, New York. Her career as a recording artist began after an encounter with Paul Anthony George, member of the R&B group Full Force, in the early 80s. Aside from performing, Full Force produced and wrote music for Patti LaBelle, James Brown, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, La Toya Jackson, and Selena. The group has also produced songs for Bob Dylan, The Black Eyed Peas, Britney Spears, and Rihanna.

Martinez met two members of the group UTFO (Untouchable Force Organization), Doctor Ice and Kangol, while at the Albee Square Mall in Brooklyn. Martinez claims, “I paid them no mind when they tried to get their rap on.” She later found out that Full Force was looking for someone to play the role of Roxanne, based on their 1984 chart- topping hit “Roxanne, Roxanne” off their self-titled album UTFO. Originally, UTFO had hired a woman by the name of Elease Jacks to play Roxanne. After realizing Jacks had no singing or rapping experience, they offered the job to Martinez.

An artist by the name of Roxanne, Shante recorded a “reply” track to UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne”. Her single, “Roxanne’s Revenge”, was produced by Marley Marl and released towards the end of 1984. Shante’s single was confrontational and full of foul language, played over the original “Roxanne, Roxanne” beat. It became a huge hit, which sold over quarter of a million copies in New York alone. Her lyrical prowess was most apparent on the single “Roxanne’s Revenge” which was recorded with just one take. Shante’s fame rose for her ability to freestyle entire songs.

UTFO decided to “answer back” to Shante’s track, starting “The Roxanne Wars”. Martinez recorded her first “reply rap” under the alias “The Real Roxanne,” on Select Records. The answer-back records spawned from the first “Roxanne, Roxanne” track created a whole new trend. In 1985, over one hundred answer records were created by various emcees, the largest amount in hip-hop history. Martinez continued the Roxanne Wars by remaining the most challenging contender to Shante’s answer-back records. As a hip-hop emcee, Martinez’s Hispanic flair and sassy personality became her trademark. She performed most frequently with Howie Tee as her DJ.

One year after the continued battle for the title of Roxanne, Martinez made her first hit with Howie Tee on the single “Bang Zoom (Let’s Go-Go)”. Filled with Latin flavor, Howie Tee played keyboards and drums on the track as Martinez switch between crooning during the chorus and rapping her lyrics. The single climbed all the way up to #11 on the UK Singles Chart and remains her only UK Top 40 hit.

In 1988, Martinez released her first album, entitled The Real Roxanne. By that time the Roxanne Wars trend and popularity had decreased. However, the album highlighted her commanding personality, produced by Jam Master Jay, Howie Tee, and Full Force. In 1992, she attempted a comeback with her album entitled Go Down (But Don’t Bite It), which did not receive much success.

“Roxanne, Roxanne” became UTFO’s biggest hit and is recognized as a hip-hop classic, generating the “reply record” sensation during the 1980’s hip-hop scene. In 2008, “Roxanne, Roxanne” was ranked #84 on VH1′s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop. Martinez’s talent as recording artist The Real Roxanne led her to become famous for creating the most successful answerback records during the Roxanne Wars.

By Stefanie Guarino

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