This gritty biopic takes an unblinking, intense look at the early life of one of the most intriguing rappers of the early 1980s. Full review
In 1984, Lolita Shante Gooden, a 14-year-old from Queens, was on her way to do laundry when she became a hip-hop star.
A producer stopped her and asked if she would rap over some beats from “Roxanne Roxanne,” a hit by UTFO about a girl who wouldn’t respond to a guy’s advances. She freestyled some rhymes from the perspective of the girl in the song, punching back with force and style. Her song, “Roxanne’s Revenge,” became a hit, and Lolita transformed into Roxanne Shante, one of the first female hip-hop stars.
“Roxanne Roxanne” marries a traditional hip-hop biopic, a form long dominated by male rappers, with a more idiosyncratic and deeply felt slice of life. A vivid and unusually honest drama about the pain and bravado that were the fuel of hip-hop.
The music is a backdrop for a gripping, often brutal story of the struggles of a girl growing up poor in Queens. Ms. Adams delivers a compassionate performance as a girl whose swagger and practicality hides a melancholy edge. Stardom changes her life, but less than you’d think. Early scenes show Lolita resorting to petty crime to support her family and butting heads with her strict mother (Nia Long), a compelling character who could use more screen time.
There are rap battles and concert scenes and they do not disappoint.