REVIEW | ROXANNE ROXANNE (OUT ON @netflix)

roxanne roxanne posterExcited to finally hear the story of a female MC from Queens­bridge – Lol­ita Shante Gooden, who later changed her name to, ‘Rox­an­ne Shante’. One of Hip Hop’s lesser well known Rap pion­eers, back in the 1980’s she helped shape Hip Hop as we know it today with her track ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ which sparked an array of responses in rap battles known as ‘Rox­an­ne Wars’.

Set in the Queens­bridge Hous­ing Pro­jects of New York city, ‘Rox­an­ne Rox­an­ne’ flash­backs to glimpses of 80’s fash­ion and music instilling nos­tal­gia of the early days of Hip Hop set­ting the scene per­fectly. The bru­tal storyline how­ever was a lot dark­er than I expec­ted. A very hon­est account of Roxanne’s tri­als and tribu­la­tions in life on her rise to acci­dent­al fame. This was less of a tale of the artist, but that of Rox­an­ne as a per­son. We could feel her frus­tra­tions and anger at the unfair­ness of situ­ations she faced, which gave a raw per­spect­ive of her jour­ney. Des­pite the grit­ti­ness, I believe any Hip Hop head would appre­ci­ate the nar­rat­ive as there is no doubt that these events also made her the MC she was. It’s not some­thing to be sug­ar coated.

At an early age her mother turned to alco­hol­ism after her boy­friend left with her with all of her life sav­ings that was going to be used to escape the pro­jects with, leav­ing Rox­an­ne with more respons­ib­il­it­ies than a child should ever have. Young­er sis­ters to look after, Rox­an­ne had to find a way to earn her own money and become a some­what an inde­pend­ent woman in the inner-city jungle, from try­ing to move out on her own away from her tiny apart­ment to nav­ig­at­ing unwanted advances from men. There was a very strong theme of oppor­tun­ist­ic men who often wore masks to dis­guise their true intent, in the end leav­ing a trail of used and abused women, this only added to the strength of women liv­ing in the hous­ing pro­jects and the power of sis­ter­hood, we see a scene where a rival female MC shows some com­pas­sion to Rox­an­ne stat­ing they are sis­ters. Rox­an­ne her­self later becomes involved with an older man and their rela­tion­ship turns abus­ive which he tries to dis­guise as a form of love. She faced a great deal of emo­tion­al and psy­cho­lo­gic­al pres­sure.

One way Rox­an­ne made her money was by bat­tling on the streets, she had built up a solid repu­ta­tion for her­self through free­styl­ing. We see the his­tor­ic­al scene in which whil­st doing a laun­dry run a pro­du­cer (Mar­ley Marl) asks her to spit a verse over UTFO’s rack, ‘Rox­an­ne Rox­an­ne’ which she does in under 10 minutes, rhym­ing with a female’s per­spect­ive again­st advances of men. This becomes a huge overnight hit with radio play and launches her career into the then newly emer­ging Hip Hop scene at aged only 14. Per­son­ally, I felt there could have been great­er emphas­is on her skill­set and their ori­gins, as at such a young age to be among­st her peers must have taken a hell of a lot of tal­ent, and per­haps this notion was a little over­shad­owed by the focus of the events in her life.

Depic­tion of the shady world of show busi­ness on top of a heav­ily male dom­in­ated industry, calls for a strong woman to sur­vive in, let alone a young girl. If any­thing, it’s made me respect her even more for achiev­ing what she did under such pres­sure of cir­cum­stances at such an early age where she was also learn­ing to find her­self. May­be not as clear as it could have been, Hip Hop was her tool to do so. Her determ­in­a­tion to suc­ceed or even to simply sur­vive in the envir­on­ment using her gift of rhym­ing, was in was an inspir­a­tion.

End­ing with a scene where young Nas returns to Rox­an­ne one year after she told him he needed to work on his skills gave me goose­bumps! Being the best MC in Queens­bridge mer­ited those com­ing up to battle her, at this point this was Nas. This stuck a cord with me over the theme of tra­di­tion, I instantly related it a point in Prodigy’s audiobook where he then stepped to battle Nas who was now the most respec­ted MC of Queens­bridge him­self years later. This was the cycle of Hip Hop, a sign of want­ing to gain respect from the pion­eers of the newly emer­ging art of rap. It was a nice point to end on as it hin­ted at the con­tinu­ation of the leg­acy of Queens­bridge MCs.

 

 

 

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Faizah Cyanide

Faizah Cyanide

Faizah works in clin­ic­al research by pro­fes­sion and has been an avid Hip Hop lov­er since the early 90’s, hav­ing cre­ated her own Hip Hop event, ‘Break­in’ Bound­ar­ies’ in the early 2000’s which was pre­dom­in­antly based around the con­cept of bboy battles, she has worked with sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al events pro­moters and dan­cers to inspire oth­ers through this art­form.

About Faizah Cyanide

Faizah Cyanide
Faizah works in clinical research by profession and has been an avid Hip Hop lover since the early 90's, having created her own Hip Hop event, 'Breakin' Boundaries' in the early 2000's which was predominantly based around the concept of bboy battles, she has worked with several international events promoters and dancers to inspire others through this artform.