28 Songs that Changed My Life: U.T.F.O., “Roxanne, Roxanne” (8 of 28)

Is this one of the great songs in hip hop history? Absolutely not. I can’t lie: it hasn’t aged well. It’s pretty dated.

But it legit changed my life. U.T.F.O.’s “Roxanne Roxanne” is probably my earliest rap memory, a song that took over the playground of my small New Jersey town, passed around on mix tapes recorded from the radio and memorized by half the school. There are still lyrics I quote to this day (including for some damn reason, “dermatology is treatment of the skin”). It also sparked the so-called “Roxanne Wars,” a series of songs hitting back and forth at one another that played out as an ongoing story between rival rappers.

As a kid, I was mesmerized. This was right out of a comic book!

The song laid the groundwork for my love of hip hop and painted the scene as something different than rock, something where storytelling was essential, acts spoke directly to one another in their songs, and where the performers were characters in their own right.

It was fun stuff, silly in a lot of ways and a cut that sounds pretty archaic now, but it’s what got me into rap music, something which is still with me to this day.