Roxanne Shante, known as a pioneer in the hip-hop world and member of the legendary Juice Crew, is finally getting her just dues. Well, sort of.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, the 39-year-old rapper was stiffed for her royalty checks way back when, but she re-upped in another way. She got a Ivy League Ph.D, which her label has to finance.
Now, she’s known as Dr. Roxanne Shante, all thanks to a forgotten clause in her first record deal.
In 1984, Shante scored a smash hit with her song “Roxanne’s Revenge”, a response record to rap group UTFO’s mega-hit “Roxanne, Roxanne.” It sold 250,000 copies in New York City alone. At the time, it made her hip-hop’s first female celebrity, opening the doors for other females after her such as Lil Kim, Salt-N-Pepa and Queen Latifah.
However, she never reached the success of her predecessors, eventually realizing the labels were just sucking her dry and would toss her as soon as the money well dried up.
Fed up with the politics of the business, at 19, Shante remembered that there was a clause in her Warner Music recording contract: The company would fund her education for life.
“Everybody was cheating with the contracts, stealing and telling lies,” she said. “And to find out that I was just a commodity was heartbreaking.”
But Shante, then 19, remembered a clause in her Warner Music recording contract: The company would fund her education for life.
She eventually cashed in, earning a Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell to the tune of $217,000 – all covered by the label. But getting Warner Music to cough up the dough was a battle.
“They kept stumbling over their words, and they didn’t have an exact reason why they were telling me no,” Shante said.
She figured Warner considered the clause a throwaway, never believing a teen mom in public housing would attend college. The company declined to comment for this story.
Shante found an arm-twisting ally in Marguerita Grecco, the dean at Marymount Manhattan College. Shante showed her the contract, and the dean let her attend classes for free while pursuing the money.
“I told Dean Grecco that either I’m going to go here or go to the streets, so I need your help,” Shante recalls. “She said, ‘We’re going to make them pay for this.'”
Grecco submitted and resubmitted the bills to the label, which finally agreed to honor the contract when Shante threatened to go public with the story.
Shante earned her doctorate in 2001, and launched an unconventional therapy practice focusing on urban African-Americans – a group traditionally reluctant to seek mental health help.
“People put such a taboo on therapy, they feel it means they’re going crazy,” she explained. “No, it doesn’t. It just means you need someone else to talk to.”
Shante often incorporates hip-hop music into her sessions, encouraging her clients to unleash their inner MC and shout out exactly what’s on their mind.
“They can’t really let loose and enjoy life,” she said. “So I just let them unlock those doors.”
Today, she gives back. Shante offers $5,000 college scholarships each semester to female rappers through the nonprofit Hip Hop Association.