Roxanne Shanté burst on the scene in 1984 with "Roxanne's Revenge," a response to UTFO's insanely popular "Roxanne, Roxanne." The song — and the dozens of responses that followed — represented an era in the mid 1980's where answer songs and diss records would flourish and help jump start the careers of many MC's.
Throughout the years the Queensbridge battle MC continued to innovate. Here are four ways that Roxanne Shanté inspired a generation of female MC's.
"Roxanne's Revenge" was the big bang that took Roxanne Shanté from the Queensbridge Houses, to the world stage. The answer record not only helped the sales and popularity of U.T.F.O.'s already popular hit, but it spawned almost two dozen response records, and just as many fly-by-night labels.
The genius of Shanté's response is that the producers of "Roxanne, Roxanne" had already found a Roxanne of their own to create a response record, but Shanté and Marley Marl beat them to the punch — forcing U.T.F.O. to call their Roxanne "The Real" Roxanne.
"Roxanne's Revenge" was responsible for launching several careers in addition to Shanté's, and it represents one of Hip-Hop's most fun and vibrant periods.
Although the Juice Crew was originally a group of moguls, DJ's, and MC's who hung out at The legendary Disco Fever nightclub, the second iteration was a crew of MC's headed up by super producer Marley Marl.
Roxanne Shantè, MC Shan, and Biz Markie were original members of the legendary clique. Roxanné Shante, who was Marley's first commercially successful production, brought in the first members of the crew.
MC Shan tells Rock The Bells that he owes his career to Shanté.
"'The Bridge' was a tape in the Queensbridge projects for two years before anybody (outside of QB) heard it," he explains. "Down By Law just progressed because I was on tour with Shanté. Now I gotta come up with an album because I'm going here and there with the hottest girl in the whole game. Shanté was Beyoncé back then. I'm on tour wit' Beyoncé."
Shan says that his association with Shanté gave him clout and caused him to be remembered as "that little skinny boy" that was running with her, and that his popularity from his independent singles got the attention of Warner Bros Records.
Biz Markie also got his first onstage exposure by touring with Shantè.
Shanté assembled one of the most powerful cliques in rap music, and it showed that a woman's place was not only on the microphone.
"Roxanne's Revenge", "Runaway", and "Queen of Rox" marked a string of successful singles released by Shanté on Philadelphia's Pop Art Records.
The videos for "Roxanne's Revenge" and "Queen of Rox" were the earliest by a female MC. Although Shanté wasn't the first female MC, she was the first to have any degree of marketing and promotion behind her as an artist.
Her videos, which aired on Video Music Box and various video shows on the BET Network, marked the first time that most people saw a female MC.
Never one to bite her tongue, Shanté was one of the first MC's to call out others by name in diss records. Songs like "Big Mama" and "Wack itt" called out Queen Latifah, Yo-Yo, MC Lyte, and JJ Fad.
At the New Music Seminar in 1985, Shantè engaged in battle with Fruitkwan of Stetsasonic, showing that she not only was fearless in going toe to toe with her female contemporaries, but she also took on the males as well.