Roxanne Roxanne - TV Review
In Three Words: Hustle, Genuine, Grown.
If you know me, you know that I love a good Biopic. Sometimes when it says "Based on A True Story" you have to take that statement with a grain of salt because, obviously, not all of it is 100% fact.
But damn, when I finished watching this, I was left a little lost for words. The film itself wasn't as positive as I thought it'd be.
Let me explain. I think Hip-Hop, especially the early years, is always shined in a glossy light. When you watch shows like "The Get Down", they put the Hip-Hop phenomenon in a lens of "Look at this new thing that brightened all the black/latinx faces and the lives that they lived".
For Lolita Shanté Gooden, AKA Roxanne Shanté, Hip-Hop wasn't the be all and end all. It certainly changed her life, but it wasn't the outright answer for Roxanne and all her hardships. Hip-Hop couldn't change a scorned mother that dipped in and then out of alcoholism on top of her already militaristic attitude towards Roxanne and her three sisters. Hip-Hop gave her success, but it also opened doors for men to take advantage. After all, she was only a teenager at the time.
This film is an amazing coming-of-age story of a Hip-Hop legend with a life that transcends Hip-Hop. Even though we know Roxanne Shanté as a Pioneer, this film isn't about her bars. It's about a girl who couldn't live a child's life. Battle rapping for money, needing a crate to stand on before she burned her opponent. Having to hustle for the family because her mother was duped by a good for nothing man. Being (or should I say acting) grown even though she confided in her friend Ranita that she didn't want to Tour. Everything she did was all done out of necessity. Only willing to drop the infamous "Roxanne's Revenge" if Marley Marl got Roxanne and her sisters some new jeans. Only rapping if she got paid.
Nothing was for free.
The film couldn't deep dive into "Roxanne's Revenge", but let me tell you how groundbreaking that song was. That song made Roxanne a star LITERALLY overnight. Hip-Hop was still a very local medium. So when that song was played on NY Underground Radio, she was a star in her neighbourhood. The song also holds the unofficial record of having the most "Response Tracks" made in answer to the track. It's rumoured to be in the hundreds as to the amount of responses to her. Everybody wanted to test Roxanne. This girl who just did it for some jeans. There has been and there will never be an equivalent to how many rappers tried to knock Roxanne off the pedestal she was on.
She did all of that, while dealing with her family, an abusive boyfriend and a record label that screwed her.
If you're thinking of watching this film for the Hip-Hop, the battle bars and everything that you like about Hip-Hop, you're already doing this film a disservice. This is about a teenager who was forced to step up and be grown. Who was focused on the well-being of her family and if she veered off the extremely narrow path, she paid the consequences. All praise to Roxanne Shanté and allowing her life to be covered in such a way where Hip-Hop took a backseat to her personal story. In that way, the film is refreshing. But overall, it's a story that adds to the greater narrative in the zeitgeist.
That women are stronger than Film, Television & popular culture have told us from a young age.