Few women, actually no woman, came on the Hip Hop scene quite like Roxanne Shanté. The legendary female battle rapper was only 14 years old when she took on her demons, the recording industry and Hip Hop itself. Now after more than three decades, she is being recognized for personal journey and legacy in the new Netflix film, ROXANNE ROXANNE.
The film, which is written and director by Michael Larnell, explores Lolita “Roxanne Shanté “Gooden’s life during the early 1980s as she hustled for her dreams and survival of her family while living in the Queensbridge Projects in NYC. Larnell says what drew him to Shanté’s story, apart from being a fan, was her real life struggles. He explains, “she had to deal with so much at such a young age … before she became Roxanne Shante. She had a lot on her plate, so to speak, like just living in Queensbridge and what she had to deal with. And then when she became Roxanne Shante she just had even more to deal with … I think that was what was surprising to me [about her story].” Shanté, who also executively produces the film, echos those sentiments of survival and strength when discussing what she hopes what people take way from the film.
She says, “I hope that people are able to gather from this story they too can be survivors and they too can survive…and the labels that other people put on you are not the labels that you have to carry yourself.” She added that her story is “everyone’s story.”
The film’s message of hope and resiliency seemed to resonate with the cast as well. Chanté Adams who plays Roxanne Shanté in the film, says, “I think that every woman should see this film and realize that you are not alone and whatever you’re going through there is a light at the end of that tunnel.” Likewise her cast-mate, Nia Long, who plays Shanté mother in the films, says “I was a girl born in Brooklyn lived in South Central LA I am a living testament that anything’s possible.”
Pharrell Williams and Mimi Valdes, who previously worked together to produce the Oscar nominated film Hidden Figures, team up again for ROXANNE ROXANNE. Williams opened up on what it is like to produce films with strong female leads and try to changed the Hollywood narrative for women.
He says,”it’s super important that the narrative for women is changing.. people are recognizing their contributions… in any vocation, there are women who have done great jobs as well and has amazing stories that should be told and yet this is another one.”
He goes on to say, “She is a pillar when it comes to Hip Hop like you can’t discuss hip hop without discussing the female contribution both on an executive side and on the artist side and this was the first on the artist side to really penetrate the market as a battle rapper…she was the first female battle rapper.” Valdes agrees saying,”I just hope that people can appreciate not only her Legacy and what she did for the music, but just also understand that a story like hers can inspire so many people because she is a survivor.
ROXANNE ROXANNE will be available on Netflix and in select theaters in NY & LA on March 23, 2018.