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Answer song

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Answer song

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An answer song (or answer record) is, as the name suggests, a song (usually a recorded track) made in answer to a previous song by another artist. The concept became widespread in blues and R&B recorded music in the 1930s through 1950s. Today, this practice is most common in hip hop music, especially as the continuation of a feud between performers.

While most answer records are released on underground mixtapes and do not achieve mainstream success, the tracks are sometimes performed live and achieve word-of-mouth popularity. Some answer records are released commercially, however this is rare - as detailed below.

An aspect of hip hop performance is for an MC to "diss" (show disrespect towards) other performers. This may stem from a creative dispute between the two performers, competition between them (or their record labels) or personal slights. Such disses are often not made directly, an MC might refer to his or her town as being better than another (unnamed) town but clearly imply a competitor. This practice stems from dancehall reggae music, where the disses are much more direct and personal - as well as being more commonly released commercially (see Bounty Killer's album "The Art Of War").

The answer record is therefore a signal that the battle has been joined. The dissed MC will release a track insulting the originator of the feud, which will be responded to with another recording and so on. It is not uncommon for both performers to call each other's sexuality and talent into question, which sometimes results in answer records of a particularly high lyrical quality - as each performer attempts to out-do the other.

Additionally, many answer records are recorded over the beat of a song previously released by the target. For this reason, such records are rarely released commercially, as the song is technically in violation of copyright. The reason for taking this step is generally to demonstrate to the target and the audience that the new performer is significantly better at using the same music.

Among the most famous answer records of history is Boogie Down Productions' "The Bridge Is Over." This is a response to a Marley Marl-produced track entitled "The Bridge", which claimed that Queensbridge was the most important borough in New York City. BDP, from another borough, disputed that fact in what is often described as a classic of hip hop music.

Another famous case is that of U.T.F.O.'s hit "Roxanne." This track was perceived by many female rappers as being anti-feminist and resulted in a large number of answer records, many of them by MCs taking the name Roxanne (among them Roxanne Shante and The Real Roxanne). Indeed, it is not uncommon to hear about "The Roxanne Wave" in a discussion of hip hop music at this time.

The phenomenon is significantly more well-known in hip hop music than in dancehall reggae, however dancehall "wars" are increasingly common. Some of these - especially those recorded by female artists - are light-hearted in intent. Consider, for example Lady Saw and Marsha's response to Shaggy's "It Wasn't Me," entitled "Son of a Bitch". The original song dealt with Shaggy's advice to a friend to deny an extramarital affair, even in the face of incontrovertible evidence. The answer record is framed as a conversation between the women, one of whose husband or boyfriend has been unfaithful. While the lover is never named as Shaggy (or his duet partner "Rik Rok" Ducent), the use of the same backing track is designed to convey that impression.

In recent times, major record labels have released answer songs to great success, most noticeably Frankee's "F U Right Back", a response to a song by Eamon which was supposedly written about her. However, due to both being essentially variations of the same song, it would be impossible for both to be released commercially if there wasn't a pre-arranged agreement organised by the record labels involved. Despite this lack of authenticity, both songs top charts across the globe, including in America and the UK.

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Music Sound, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

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