Names like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown are considered to be among the best of all-time when it comes to women in rap. However, one pioneer that may not have attained the same amount of commercial success, but was as instrumental as anyone for putting on for the ladies is Roxanne Shante. Hailing from the infamous Queensbridge Housing Projects, Roxanne Shante became one of the first artists in rap to make their debut with a diss record – 1984’s “Roxanne’s Revenge” – which took aim at rap group U.T.F.O. and their song “Roxanne, Roxanne.”
“Roxanne’s Revenge” would turn Roxanne Shante (born Lolita Shante Gooden), into an overnight sensation and make her one of the first teenagers in rap to attain top billing. But her rise to fame would overshadow a tumultuous childhood and an even darker transition into adulthood for the young star, a period which is documented in Roxanne Roxanne. Written and directed by Michael Larnell, the Netflix film stars Chanté Adams as Roxanne Shante, and includes appearances from Mahershala Ali, Nia Long, Elvis Nolasco, Kevin Phillips and Shenell Edmonds.
A gripping portrayal of Roxanne Shante’s rollercoaster ride from the projects to the high life and the trials and tribulations endured, Roxanne Roxanne uncovers the good, bad and the ugly aspects that can come as a result of being exposed to too much, too soon. However, the film was also a crash course in the importance of Roxanne Shante and how her contributions to hip-hop have influenced and paved the way for both men and women, with a style that remains relevant today.
Here are 10 interesting facts we learned about Roxanne Shante’s life that blew our mind.
1. Roxanne Shante Was Considered The Queensbridge Battle Champion
As a youth in the Queeensbridge Housing Projects, Roxanne Shante began to show her talent as an emcee by earning the title of “Queensbridge Battle Champion” at age nine.
2. She Made Ends Meet By Boosting Clothing
Prior to her big break in hip-hop, she lived day-to-day by stealing and reselling clothing from boutique stores. She also had a short-run selling narcotics in the Queensbridge Housing Projects during the crack epidemic.
3. MC Shan and Roxanne Shante Were Close Friends
MC Shan, most known for the classic rap song “The Bridge,” was a close friend prior to the formation of The Juice Crew. They helped each other hone their skills as emcees, which is highlighted throughout Roxanne Roxanne.
4. Her 1985 Song “Runaway” Is Based On A True Story
One of her first songs unleashed following the success of “Roxanne’s Revenge” was a cautionary tale that saw art imitating life. In Roxanne Roxanne, Shante runs away from home as a result of her mother’s alcoholism and her thirst for independence. She quickly learns that life on her own isn’t as cracked up as it appears to be, a sentiment that’s conveyed in the song.
5. “Roxanne’s Revenge” Was Recorded In One Take
According to Roxanne Roxanne, the “Roxanne’s Revenge” response to U.T.F.O.’s 1984 single “Roxanne, Roxanne,” was recorded in just one take, and was done while Shante was doing laundry, making it an even more impressive feat.
6. Sparky Dee Was Her Biggest Rival
“Roxanne’s Revenge” sparked dozens of response records by male and female rappers looking to put Roxanne Shante in her place, one of them being Brooklyn native Sparky Dee’s retort “Sparky’s Turn, Roxanne You’re Through,” which would spawn a rivalry between the two. In 1985, Spin Records released “Round One, Roxanne Shante vs Sparky Dee,” which played on the hype surrounding their bad blood and include new diss tracks directed at one another.
7. Roxanne Shante And Marly Marl Had Beef
One revelation viewers took note of after watching Roxanne Roxanne was the tension between Roxanne Shante and producer Marly Marl, the two members credited with putting The Juice Crew on the map. After the success of “Roxanne’s Revenge” and additional singles, the collaborators would clash with one another, with Marley Marl vowing to never DJ for Roxanne Shante again. However, the two would later reconnect in 1989 on Roxanne Shante’s debut album, Bad Sister, with Marley producing the majority of its songs. It peaked at No. 52 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.
8. She Was Taken Advantage Of Financially
“Roxanne’s Revenge” may have been a breakout hit and afforded Roxanne Shante the opportunity to go on tour, but according to the film, the teenage sensation would not reap the full benefits of her labor. Repeatedly taken advantage of financially by her management and Cold Chillin’ Records, Roxanne Shante would have little to show for her success other than cars and jewelry, gifts that were meant to blind her to the financial misappropriation that she was subjected to.
9. Roxanne Shante Was One of Nas’ Earliest Mentors
The Queensbridge Housing Projects may be associated with Nas more than any other celebrity, but prior to his own emergence as The Bridge’s favorite son, Nas was just another kid looking to prove himself to his elders, namely Roxanne Shante. In the Netflix reel, Nas is depicted as initially being intimidated by Shante to rap for her but ultimately redeems himself later on, ripping through a quick-strike verse paying homage to Roxanne Shante and her status as a god in QB.
10. Biz Markie Got His Start As Roxanne Shante’s Beat-Boxer
One of the few Juice Crew members to be portrayed in Roxanne Roxanne was Biz Markie, who is most known for classic singles like “Nobody Beats The Biz,” “Vapors” and “Just a Friend.” In the film, Biz Markie is introduced as a roadie and tasked with carrying Roxanne Shante’s luggage, symbolic of his position at the bottom of The Juice Crew totem pole. However, Roxanne Roxanne also depicts Biz as an essential cog in The Juice Crew machine by beat-boxing for Roxanne Shante on tour during her and Marley’s rift, which would be his first step towards becoming the rap legend he is today.