Saturday 24 March 2018

Roxanne needs an answer film

At 14 years old I was going gold
While I was putting dope hits in the mix
Ripping shows with Kane and Biz Markie
Fucking up Roxanne and taking out Sparky
Niggas came in flocks from blocks and blocks
To watch the Rox knock bitches out the box
And every place I played, I headlined

Those few lines from Shante's Big Mama do a better job of telling her story than the dramatisation of her life, Roxanne Roxanne. Or dramatisation of part of her life, 1984 to 1989, just before the release of her first album, so we don't even come close to 1992's Big Mama.

After the success of the four-part documentary Hip-Hop Evolution, it seems counter productive to sacrifice the music of a hip-hop great at the altar of domestic drama. The film starts promisingly with Shante's rap battle prowess, but that's just a set-up for a lot of reality-TV style back story.

When Roxanne's Revenge hits, the film focuses on Shante's alcoholic mother's reaction to finding out her daughter is being talked about. Shante is on the radio and in a local paper, but there's no mention of the record selling 250,000 copies in New York alone.

Calling the film Roxanne Roxanne, after the song that inspired her to write Roxanne's Revenge, is a mistake. It fortunately leads the way open for an answer film - a documentary focusing on a hip-hop great, her music, her rivals and her influence. You could call it Roxanne's Revenge.

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