ANSWER RECORDS are a tradition that goes all the way back to the beginnings of R&B, when Hank Ballard and the Midnighters' "Work With Me, Annie" spawned, first, Etta James' "Roll With Me, Henry" and, later, Ballard's final comment, "Annie Had a Baby." Since then, the practice of reacting to certain hit songs has persisted. Indeed, as the following records show, answer records are going even stronger than ever.
UTFO -- "UTFO" (Select SEL 21614). The hit here is "Roxanne, Roxanne," a wry reversal of rap convention that found the members of UTFO complaining about how they didn't get the girl. The single gave rise to more than a dozen response records, two of which -- "The Real Roxanne" and "Calling Her a Crab (Roxanne Part II)" -- appear here. But the album's real achievement is in showing that UTFO, which appears Friday night at the Washington Convention Center with New Edition, isn't a one-hit wonder, but a consistently witty rap act.
VARIOUS ARTISTS -- "The Complete Story of Roxanne" (Compleat 671014-1). This looks like a great deal, getting a single album that includes all the major Roxanne raps, from "Roxanne, Roxanne" to "Roxanne's a Man (The Untold Story)." Trouble is, none of these versions is by the original artists, and the sound-alike production by Frank Virtue is decidedly cheesy. This is no bargain.
ROXANNE SHANTE -- "Queen of Rox" (Pop Art PA 1408). Lolita Gooden, a.k.a. Roxanne Shante, cut the first Roxanne answer disc, "Roxanne's Revenge," which quickly became almost as popular as the original, thanks to the combination of her brash wit and raw-voiced innocence. On "Queen of Rox," her second single, she tells how she was drafted into the Roxanne wars with singular wit and spirit, suggesting that Shante will definitely outlast the Roxanne craze.
LISA-LISA & CULT JAM -- "I Wonder If I Take You Home" (Columbia 44-05203). The question this single asks -- "Will you respect me in the morning?" -- is an old one, but that hasn't diminished the song's appeal. Part of the reason is the solid, techno-funk groove generated by Full Force, which backs UTFO on "Roxanne, Roxanne" and will be joining Lisa-Lisa at the Convention Center Friday night. But it doesn't hurt that Lisa-Lisa unleashes a voice easily strong enough to make a hit out of this sing-song melody.
FULL FORCE -- "Girl If You Take Me Home" (Columbia 44-05232). This answer to Lisa-Lisa's question is not terribly convincing, either as romance or as music. There's a cute play on soap-opera titles in the "Funky Fresh Def Mix," but that's about all this 12i single has to offer.