Shante, Roxanne 1969–
Roxanne Shante 1969–
Rap musician, psychologist
During its infancy, rap music was strictly a male domain filled with male deejays, male rappers, and male sensibilities. Full of misogynistic, sexist, and downright obscene lyrics to describe women, rap music did not provide a forum for women to respond. That is, not until 14-year-old Roxanne Shante took notice. In response to a popular song, “Roxanne, Roxanne,” in which three male rappers denigrate a beautiful woman who won’t give them the time of day, Gooden recorded an “answer record” called “Roxanne’s Revenge.” With that 1984 recording Gooden, “not only proved that females could rock the mic, but at the tender age of fourteen she also provided the first rap critique of sexism in the black community,” wrote Aida Croal in “Talking Back: Women in Hip-Hop,” published on www.Africana.com. In doing so, she laid the groundwork for the female hip-hop and rap musicians that followed, from Queen Latifah to Lil’ Kim.
Lolita Shante Gooden was born on November 9, 1969, in Long Island, New York. There, she grew up in the Queensbridge housing projects. A well-known anecdote in rap music history describes how Gooden fell into rapping. “Roxanne, Roxanne,” recorded by a group called UTFO was ruling the airwaves on New York’s “Rap Attack” radio show. It was a raw, explicit anthem that held no punches in its dissing of women. One day Gooden was walking near her home and passed three neighborhood guys—also rappers—and she overheard them discussing the fact that UTFO was pulling out of a local show. Gooden approached the group and offered to record an “answer” song that would get back at UTFO. One of the three, producer Marlon “Marley Marl” Williams took her up on the offer and “Roxanne’s Revenge” was recorded. In rap as explicit as anything male rappers put out, the squeaky-voiced Gooden uses expletives like punctuation, coming down hard on UTFO.
The song became an instant hit locally. DJ Mr. Magic, host of “Rap Attack,” had as many requests for “Roxanne’s Revenge” as it did for the song that inspired it. With this success, Roxanne Shante was born. She began performing the song at local showcases and her fame soon spread. “People everywhere wanted to hear this frank young girl with the foul mouth,” wrote The Herald of Glasgow, Scotland. One of those people was Dana Goodman of Pop Art Records. Sensing a mega-hit, he produced a record of the song and it hit music stores and national airwaves blaring. Gooden, still a high school student, was suddenly famous. She had to stop attending classes because of crowds of fans who gathered outside of her classroom door. This sudden stardom surprised Gooden, “It wasn’t like I wanted to be a rapper; it was just luck and timing,” she told London’s The Independent Sunday, adding, “which is something I’m pretty good at.”
Despite the novelty of this “answer record,” and despite the fact that teenaged Shante was swearing and using sexual imagery as raunchy as any male rapper, the fact that she was a talented rapper helped Gooden become more than a one-hit wonder. She was a natural at freestyling, pulling a rhyme out of nothing and making it work onstage. She has credited this skill to her childhood fascination with black comics. Of Nipsey
Born Lolita Shante Gooden on November 9, 1969, in Long Island, NY; married with two children. Education: Master’s degree in Psychology.
Career: Rap musician. Released single, “Roxanne’s Revenge,” at age 14, 1984; albums: Bad Sister, 1989; The Bitch is Back, 1992; toured extensively, late 1980s and early 1990s; retired from music; criminal psychologist in New York, NY, currently.
Russell, she told The Independent Sunday, “We used to watch him and you’d come outside the next day and see if you could do the same thing. Eventually, I got so good at it I was able to pursue a career from it, making records in five or 10 minutes, just going in and doing it.”
Following the national release of “Roxanne’s Revenge,” Gooden began to tour non-stop and wouldn’t stop for nearly four years. She worked with other rappers, including Marley Marl and Mr. Magic, forming the Juice Crew Allstars. At one point she was playing three gigs in as many states in a single day. At the same time, she was conducting interviews, meeting with press, and making records. Pop Art released Def Mix Volume 1: Roxanne Shante in 1985, which, in addition to “Roxanne’s Revenge,” included titles like “Bite This” and “To the Other MCs.” A series of 12-inch vinyl records and singles followed. However, it wasn’t until 1989 that Gooden recorded her first full-length album, Bad Sister, followed by her second album, The Bitch is Back in 1992.
Gooden’s schedule was grueling. She didn’t even take time off to have her first child, a son named Kareem. He was born on the road when Gooden was 15 and he toured with her for his first few years of his life. However, Gooden’s hard work was paying off—she was earning lots of money. But, as a minor, her earnings went to her mother, who had no experience dealing with the recording industry, leaving Gooden to fight for credit and royalties for much of her own work. “She didn’t know too much about the record business; she was just happy that they were giving her money,” Gooden explained to The Independent Sunday. Eventually Gooden got fed up, and, while still in her early twenties, she retired from the music business.
By 1992 Gooden was married and had a second child. She went on to college, eventually earning a master’s degree in Psychology. Settled in an upscale neighborhood of Queens, New York with her family, this female pioneer of rap with a penchant for bad language, became a criminal psychologist for New York State, working with convicts up for parole. She emerged from her domestic life long enough to record a song on a 2000 release by British techno artist Mekon, who had to hire a private detective to find her. Despite the bad taste the record industry left in her mouth, Gooden had few regrets. She told The Independent Sunday, “I like the fact that hip-hop taught me a lot. Hip-hop and the entertainment industry prepared me for life itself.”
Def Mix Volume 1: Roxanne Shante, Pop Art Records (vinyl album).
Bad Sister, Cold Chillin’ Records, Reprise/Warner, 1989.
The Bitch is Back, Livin’ Large/Tommy Boy Records, 1992.
Roxanne Shante’s Greatest Hits, Cold Chillin’ Records, 1995.
The Herald, (Glasgow, Scotland), January 2, 2002, p. 11.
The Independent Sunday, (London, England), August 27, 2000, p8.
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