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Kangol Kid, Early Rapper Who Sought ‘Roxanne,’ Dies at 55

In David Toop’s essential early-rap history book, “The Rap Attack” (1985), Kangol Kid explained one of his lyrical innovations: “Another new thing is Z-rap. It’d be like a code language. I would talk to him and his name’s Doctor Ice. I would say, ‘Dizoctor Izice. Yizo hizo bizoy wizon’t youza kizoy mesover herezere?’ — that’s just saying, ‘Yo, homeboy, why don’t you come over here?’ and what I did is make a rap out of that language.” It was a style he deployed on “Roxanne, Roxanne,” and it anticipated the later linguistic zigzagging of E-40, Snoop Dogg and others.

In 1985 UTFO released its debut album, called simply “UTFO,” which continued the Roxanne saga with “Calling Her a Crab.” In a 1985 concert review, Jon Pareles of The New York Times praised the group for its “syncopated, overlapping patter” and “spitfire delivery.”

UTFO would go on to release four more albums, and became popular enough for their own slot on the Fresh Fest tour, a road show that was then an index of hip-hop’s growing popularity. In 1985, UTFO performed at the Apollo Theater, believed to be a first for a rap group. In 1987, they collaborated with the heavy metal band Anthrax.

After UTFO’s run in the spotlight, Kangol Kid wrote and produced for other artists, including the group Whistle and the baseball star Darryl Strawberry, who recorded a novelty rap song, “Chocolate Strawberry.” He did voice-over work and wrote a music-industry advice column, first for Black Beat magazine and then for AllHiphop.com.

In the last decade, Kangol Kid was actively involved with cancer charities. In 2012 he was honored by the American Cancer Society for his fund-raising efforts as co-founder of the Mama Luke Foundation. He was diagnosed with colon cancer in February.

He is survived by his parents; three brothers, Joel, Andy and Alix (all memorably name-checked on UTFO’s “Lisa Lips”); three sons, T.Shaun, Andre and Giovanni; a daughter, Amancia; and seven grandchildren.

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