"Well, my name is Roxanne, a-don't ya know, I just a-cold rock a party, and I do this show," 14-year-old Roxanne Shanté—neé Lolita Shanté Gooden—rapped over the beat for her hit song, "Roxanne's Revenge" in 1985.

Deemed one of the pioneers of battle rap, Shanté credits her rhyming and freestyle skills to watching comedian Nipsey Russell on episodes of the game show Hollywood Squares. For her, it was the way people reacted to him making up these sing-song-like rhymes on the spot, based on just a general conversation. She would study the technique before taking it to the neighborhood streets of Queens to battle other local emcees.

Seeing how easy the flow came to the young female emcee at the time, everyone vied for the chance to take their shot at going up against her. Roxanne Shanté instantly solidified her place as Hip Hop royalty when she wrote and released her diss track to U.T.F.O's track, "Roxanne Roxanne," which spoke about a young woman refusing to give in to the men's advances. Although not about her specifically, the rebuttal record became an instant hit for the 14-year-old rapper.

As hip hop celebrates its 50-year anniversary in 2023, EBONY caught up with Shanté to talk about making her mark on the music genre, the impact of her 2018 Netflix film, Roxanne Roxanne and the lowdown on her favorite hip hop song.

EBONY: To see this point in time, 50-years of hip hop, what does that mean to you as one of the pioneers?

Roxanne Shanté: To see that hip hop has not only grown, but that it was allowed to grow and clean itself up to become one of the greatest businesses, it's an honor to be here to witness it. You know, we've lost so many greats along the way in such a short period of time. So to still be here standing is a blessing.

Roxanne Shante in 1989. Image: David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images.

You became a huge star at just 14-years-old, a time when hip hop was still fairly new; what was that like for you as a young woman at the time?

There were other great female emcees like Sha Rock [at that time]. I came along when there was this twist, this shift in the genre. Especially with fashion in hip hop, we were moving from the leather suits and boots to dressing more relaxed in jeans and sneakers. I showed up on the scene when hip hop was really making that change.

It's been 5 years since the release of your Netflix film, Roxanne Roxanne. How have you used your story to inspire others who may come from similar backgrounds?

To even hear that it's been five years and to see the impact that my story had on a community that was sometimes forgotten about, it has allowed me to be that beacon of light or that person for those who view me as a survivor, even when the odds are against them. It has nothing to do with me being a two-time breast cancer survivor, but just when you look at my story as a child and going up against everything by myself, I did it with a smile. What I contribute today, more than anything else is to still be happy. Roxanne Shanté has now become the smiling face of a survivor.

I'm not just the artist that people want an autograph from; I'm the one they want to hug and absorb that strength I give off. If I see someone going through something, if I'm able to help them, I help. That's why the movie has been so therapeutic—not just for me—but for others. It shows that you aren't the only one that go through it, and it's proof that you can also survive.

What does it mean to be a part of the legendary Rock The Bells Fest line-up this August during this special time?

For me, it's an honor to not only be included in the lineup, but to be able to share the stage with my brothers and sisters that I've been able to do so with for so many years. Also, to now see how much hip hop has grown and how much it's included in so many things. There was a time when people thought the genre would get an expiration date, like milk. But for people to finally see and understand the value of hip hop is incredible, and to be a part of that means so much.

I'm also just looking forward to coming off the stage and being able to sit back and watch the show, to really see and take it in like the fans.

What are some of your all-time favorite hip hop songs. Or, who are you looking forward to seeing perform this year?

I'm definitely looking forward to seeing Queen Latifah grace the stage at Rock The Bells. I finally get a chance to see the Queen again and to witness that U-N-I-T-Y. As far as my favorite overall song, it would have to be "Double Dutch Bus" by Frankie Smith. It was the first time that I heard my name, Lolita, in a song and I just felt so included in the record.