"Since it wasn't a battle, I didn't think that anything was going to come of it,” Shanté says now. "In battles, I was rhyming for 30 to 40 minutes, so four minutes was nothing for me. I stuck with the storyline, and the next morning I was 'Roxanne.'" She never needed the jeans: After Mr. Magic’s crew played "Roxanne Speaks Out" -- soon officially renamed "Roxanne’s Revenge" -- on their show, all four of them instantly became local celebrities.
As Shanté systematically dissed each UTFO member in turn, raunchy lines like "All he want to do is just-a bust a cherry" helped camouflage her youth. Within weeks, the scratchy tape that still had Mr. Magic’s signature on-air tags was pressed into a 12-inch by Philadelphia’s Pop Art Records -- one that eventually had to be rerecorded with a new beat after UTFO’s label, Select, sent a cease-and-desist letter. But there wasn't time to get clearances: The combination of "Roxanne, Roxanne" and "Roxanne’s Revenge" proved irresistible.
"Male rappers felt like I was throwing things off," says Shanté. "If the best in the game is a little girl, then rap is no longer going to be seen as this masculine thing." She wasn't just subverting the hierarchy of hip-hop, but the genre’s gender norms as well. Men felt threatened; fans loved the novelty of hearing a girl take such an aggressive stance. "That’s what made it," adds Williams. "If it was some guy dissing another guy, it would not have had the same effect -- but nobody had ever heard a girl rap like that before."
Roxanne Shanté performed her first show under her new name that December, at a grungy Brooklyn club called Bee’s Castle. She was on enemy turf: This was UTFO’s borough. "There were so many people who I felt didn't like me," Shanté recalls now. "But somebody was like, 'Oh, she’s pretty,' and I was like, 'OK, that’s one person.' I opened up my mouth, and after that I never looked back."
By January 1985, Shanté was getting booked alongside UTFO. "We’re saying to ourselves, 'You’re not even the girl we’re talking about -- she doesn't exist!'" says Fequiere, laughing. "But she called us out by name on the record, and we do exist. We took that personally." The group plotted its own answer record, finding another female MC, Adelaida Martinez, to cosign as "The Real Roxanne." Meanwhile, Brooklyn rapper Doreen "Sparky D" Broadnaux decided to come to bat for her friends in UTFO with a song called "Sparky’s Turn (Roxanne You’re Through)": "It’s good you stood them up, or they’d be in jail/’Cause you sound like you’re fresh out of junior high school." But even Broadnaux was a Shanté fan. "We just heard this little squeaky, crackly voice, and we were like, 'What in the world?'" she recalls of hearing "Roxanne’s Revenge" for the first time. "But it was very catchy."
At a moment when it was next to impossible to even get rap on the radio -- and when the industry still lumped it in the category of "black" music -- UTFO’s "Roxanne, Roxanne" managed to break through to the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 79 in March 1985. That same month, "Roxanne’s Revenge" peaked at No. 22 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart (then called Hot Black Singles). At around the same time, the sales-driven Hot Dance/Disco 12-inch chart debuted, with "Roxanne’s Revenge," "Roxanne, Roxanne" and "The Real Roxanne" all in the top 10. The feud was a sensation, and new answer records flooded in from around the country: "The Parents of Roxanne," "Yo, My Little Sister (Roxanne’s Brothers)," "Roxy (Roxanne’s Sister)" and "The Final Word -- No More Roxanne (Please)."