Today, while a few female rappers are making noise in the indie world, there’s still only one female rapper that has a global appeal; and that’s Nicki Minaj. Whether it’s Nicki or any current female rappers doing her thing independently, they all rap and speak about being a woman in a male-dominated field. They all are able to go toe-to-toe with men and hold their own. They get a tremendous amount of disrespect and are held to different standards to their male counterparts. The problems they face are no different from female rappers in the 2000’s. They’re certainly no different from the problems in the 90’s with female rappers. They’re most definitely no different from the problems female rappers faces in the early 80s, the golden age and beginning of hip-hop.
Before Nicki Minaj, Eve, Missy Elliott, Lil’Kim, Foxy Brown...even before MC LYTE, Yo-Yo, Queen Latifah and Salt-N-Pepa, it was Roxanne Shante who stepped up, enter the boy's arena and showed the music industry women can be more than the pretty faces of hip-hop. After a record made by UTFO burst on the scene, Roxanne made her own response track and defied odds against gender and age. Off one track she became a hip-hop pioneer, showing everyone that women can (and later would become) a major asset in the growth of hip-hop. She also helped carry the music genre to younger demographics and showing the music industry there is a market for them and in order for hip-hop to survive, it must be in the hands of the youth. While Roxanne Shante became an overnight success, her life struggles seemed never-ending.
In her biopic, “Roxanne Roxanne”, Roxanne, born Lolita Shante Gooden, was shown in a different light; a light that most black girls, quite frankly, can relate to. A young, feisty girl who while found her talent at an early age still had some obstacles to overcome. While she did battle rap as a child to help her family, it seemed to not help much. Her childhood years were spent being bullied, challenged by other male rappers, and taking care of her sisters when he mother turned to alcoholism after a close man stole money from the family. As Shante got older, she, unfortunately, that men, including her father, wasn’t always going to be the ones you needed to depend on.
In her teens, Shante did some illegal activity to help make ends meet. She left her mothers home and lived with a person who tried to assault her. She went back to her mother’s home but soon after she recorded a song, in one take, thinking nothing of it. Soon it was on the radio, she gained notoriety and “Roxanne’s Revenge” made her a hip-hop sensation. While she was gaining popularity, she was still dealing with financial woes and getting the short end of payment deals, possibly because she’s a young girl. During this time, she was still frowned upon for only being a teenage rapper and her life and her attitude was shifting, cause division amongst her friends and musical team.
While dealing with all the stress the industry brings, Roxanne was dealing with a volatile relationship. Roxanne was dealing with a man who was old enough to be with her father, showered her with expensive gifts, and abused her...emotionally and physically, to the point where she ended up in the hospital. After leaving the hospital she has hesitation about entering back in the music industry. She reconciled old relationships, she reconciled with family members, and she ultimate got custody of her child. Roxanne Shante overcame so much and over the years has been ignored, until this biopic came out.
Roxanne Shante has always been one of my favorite female rappers. Her story has always intrigued me. Though it wasn't mentioned it the film, she had the smarts to put in her contract that her label must pay for her college tuition, and she would later get a degree. She’s still is heavy in the underground hip-hop scenes and she’s a constant force in the community as an activist. While she was the first and the youngest to truly shake up male rappers and go toe-to-toe with men in hip-hop, she’s often overlooked; in my opinion, she doesn’t get the same respect and has the same mass appeal as Queen Latifah, MC LYTE, or Yo-Yo.
After watching Roxanne, Roxanne, I suggest others watch it on Netflix as well. Not just because the movie is amazing and the cast does an amazing job portraying their characters. I want everyone to see this film because it’s a inside look at what black girls in the hood go through every day. I want people to see this film because I want people to see the type of weight black girls and black women carry with them. I want people to see this film because Roxanne Shante is a hidden gem and her life obstacles and her journey in the music industry is a true testament to the phrase #BlackGirlMagic.