She's the latest heartbreaker to spring to life in a popular song. They call her Roxanne, and she has done something unthinkable -- rejected not one, not two, but three suitors.
Before her, the guy always got the girl. Roxanne has changed that. And "Roxanne, Roxanne," the lament by the rap group UTFO, has made getting dumped respectable, perhaps even sexy.
"It's incredible. We make a record about how we can't get a girl, now they all want to meet us," says the Kangol Kid, one of the group's three rappers.
The single has provoked at least eight responses from other groups and propelled UTFO to the top of the rap scene. A compilation album of the Roxanne songs has sold 100,000 and is catching on nationally, and now, as UTFO prepares to perform with the New Edition at the Convention Center tonight, their own album is climbing the national pop charts.
The Kangol Kid says the song broke ground because they weren't following the rap tradition of bragging about their new yacht or preaching about city crime. "It's cute. It's just cute," he says from his Brooklyn home. "Everyone can relate to it. It's happened to all the guys, and all the girls have done it."
In the song, Roxanne quickly snubs the aggressive Kangol Kid and pays no attention to the Educated Rapper, the group's polysyllabic guru who raps only when he has something intelligent to say. Only Dr. Ice, smooth-talking and affable, manages to catch her ear:
She said, "You call yourself a doctor?"
I said, "It's the truth."
"Then explain to me exactly what doctors do."
Internal medicine and plastic surgery.
She said, "Oh, that's very unique!"
Gave me her number and kissed me on the cheek.
"Did you take her to the beach?"
That's what we planned,
But she stood me up, Roxanne, Roxanne.
Buoyed by slick production and a refreshing, self-deprecating candor, the song became an instant New York hit. What followed surprised everyone.
A 15-year-old unknown from Queens, Lolita "Roxanne" Shante, answered with her own rap, "Roxanne's Revenge," in which she rebutted the attacks on "her" personality. The song, crude in both production values and vernacular, was played sparingly on two New York stations, but in no time became a monster hit.
The Kangol Kid says UTFO was not pleased that Shante had stolen their idea and their rhythm track, but acknowledged her talent as a rapper. The group recorded a response to their own song, not Shante's, with "The Real Roxanne" as the rapper. "We like her now," he says. "She's all right."
But the epic didn't end. At least eight other rappers have made their statement about what could be considered a neofeminist watershed. Among the songs are "Roxanne's Doctor (The Real Man)," "Roxanne's Dead," "Roxanne's Little Sister" and "The Untold Story -- Final Chapter: Roxanne's a Man." There's even a contest on the compilation album, "Rap Your Own Roxanne."
Six months old, the craze is still going strong, although some backlash is evident in a new single, "No More Roxanne, Please."
The Educated Rapper admits that UTFO's original song was sexist. "In the next album we will straighten it out," he says. "Roxanne is sort of a symbol for girls who are stuck up, but we were not talking about all girls." Since the song's release, "Roxanne" has become a moniker for the kind of girl you can't bring home to Mom and Dad, because she won't go anywhere with you.
Success for UTFO (Untouchable Force Organization) has come early. The members, all from Brooklyn, are still in their late teens and live with their families. Since "Roxanne," however, they can't walk anywhere in the neighborhood without being stopped for autographs. Their recent U.S. tour as an opening act received wide critical and audience acclaim, and the group will launch its own tour as a headliner this August.
"UTFO" is ranked No. 14 on Billboard's black album chart, and the first single, "Leader of the Pack," is climbing the singles list. The group has also made the obligatory video, featuring close-ups of the rappers, artificial fog and a megaton truck called Bigfoot that crushes Cadillacs.
UTFO's goal is to bring the elements of hip-hop (rap, breakdancing and graffiti) to a mainstream audience. "We don't want to be labeled as a rap group," says the Kangol Kid. "We want to be labeled as a group that can rap. We want to do everything. We may come out with a country tune."