Roxanne Shanté Goes Viral
Roxanne Shanté was only fourteen when she went “viral” back in the 80s. An overnight success, Ms. Shanté recorded a trendsetting and legendary freestyle in one-take. She said in an interview with NPR that she realized her gift of being able to think up and deliver rhymes on the spot while watching Nipsey Russell on “Hollywood Squares” as an eight-year-old. This lyrical genius later set her apart in her hip-hop career, and she became known as a vicious battle rapper. In a recent interview with VLADTV she said, “if I cut [my rap battle opponent] off, it threw them off” thus giving her “leverage”.
“He should be like me, a fly MC/Don’t never have to bite, we’re always right/I have the freshest rhymes that I do recite/And after that, and you know it’s true/Well, let me tell you somethin’ else about the Doctor, too/He ain’t really cute, and he ain’t great/He don’t even know how to operate/He came up to me with some crabish rap/But let me tell you somethin’ ’cause you know it was wack/So when he came up to me, I told him to step back/He said, ‘You call yourself an MC?’ I said, ‘This is true, ‘/He said, ‘Explain to me really what MCs must do’/I said, ‘Listen very close ’cause I don’t say this every day/My name is Roxanne, and they call me Shanté.’”
Roxanne used her gifts to create on the spot rhymes as a way of responding to the sexual harassment she experienced as a young woman living within the projects, and she flawlessly inserted herself into hip-hop history with one of the very first response videos.
Call and response is a major feature of Roxanne Shanté’s career. The popular “Bitches Ain’t Shit” track by Dr. Dre is rumored to be a reply to her “The Bitch is Back”, “Brothers Ain’t Shit”. “Pullin’ your cars up close by the sidewalk/And got the nerve to get mad if I don’t talk!”
Shanté’s Contribution to Hip-Hop
Shanté exemplified brilliance, optimism, and resourcefulness by refining her abilities as a rapper while living in a group home between the ages of 11 and 14.
“Hip-Hop was our way of being able to cope with what our circumstances were and what our situation was. Hip-Hop was an alternative to fighting each other. So, we would battle from floor to floor, from dorm to dorm, from room to room.”
Ms. Shanté also spoke on the feelings she experienced while struggling with domestic abuse as a young person and then as a teenage mother. “Being a teenager at the time and feeling like no one wanted to rescue me from it,” she said, “that was the most difficult part to deal with.” Growing up, Shanté had no father figure. This absence made abuse much more likely as any attention felt like good attention. Her son’s father assaulted Shanté to the point of hospitalization, and some of this can be seen dramatized in her Netflix biopic, Roxanne, Roxanne.
Her Reason for Leaving Hip-Hop
Shanté claimed that she never recieved royalties and other entitled earnings from the hit single, “Roxanne’s Revenge”. She also says that she competed fiercely for the title of “World Supremacy.”
Unfortunately, she lost because having a young girl as the face of hip-hop would have killed the budding genre. During an interview with Hot 97, Roxanne discussed how artists can arm themselves with information against predatory management. The hip hop legend yearns for them to take advantage of the internet and other electronic resources. She doesn’t want them to have a similar experience to the one she had.
“The reason why I am happy with the female rappers today is because I see that they are controlling as far as their business goes. As far as what they present out to us and what we see, we see them having a voice. They are not quieted down. I’m sure that they are involved in every aspect of their business. If you’re not there is no excuse.”