Track Work: Height With Friends, ‘Roxanne Returns (The War Continues)’

By Al Shipley

On a new track, Baltimore MC Height (center) continues hip-hop's Roxanne saga.
On a new track, Baltimore MC Height (center) continues hip-hop's Roxanne saga. Valerie Paulsgrove


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For more than a decade, Dan “Height” Keech has been one of the most unique and prolific rappers in Baltimore, associating both with the offbeat Wham City collective as well as the underground hip-hop scene that has often joined forces for his Rap Round Robin concerts. After three solo records, he began gathering together other MCs and producers for the rotating lineup of his group Height With Friends, which has released five albums since 2009.

The latest flurry of Height With Friends activity has been around a trilogy of albums that overtly tap into Height’s love of old-school hip-hop. The first two albums in the series, Versus Dynamic Sounds and Versus Electric Rockers, were released just in the last 10 months, creatively paying tribute to early live hip-hop bootlegs and radio broadcasts. But before he completes the trilogy with the third proper album, Height actually has enough leftover tracks for 10,000 Devastating Watts, a cassette-only collection of odds and ends being released later this month.

The opening track on 10,000 Devastating Watts is “Roxanne Returns (The War Continues),” a playful continuation of the string of answer records spurred by UTFO’s 1984 hit “Roxanne, Roxanne” that helped launch hip-hop pioneer Roxanne Shanté’s career. Height has never been the most technically dazzling MC, his creativity and personality driving his career more than anything else. But ripping into UTFO’s classic flows enlivens him on “Roxanne Returns” as he bats around the concept and takes it in clever new directions—before his slick talk finally earns him Roxanne’s phone number.