Talk about a sweet revenge!
I read the story of Roxanne Shante fighting the system and getting what she earned and deserved in the NY Daily News.
Of course being an Eighties baby, I was familiar with Roxanne Shante. The hip hop pioneer was one of the first ladies to rock a mic, and one of the first to experience the harsh realities of the recording industry. From the NY Daily News:
“This is a story that needs to be told,” Shante said. “I’m an example that you can be a teenage mom, come from the projects, and be raised by a single parent, and you can still come out of it a doctor.”
Her prognosis wasn’t as bright in the years after the ’80s icon scored a smash hit at age 14: “Roxanne’s Revenge,” a razor-tongued response to rap group UTFO’s mega-hit “Roxanne, Roxanne.”
The 1984 single sold 250,000 copies in New York City alone, making Shante (born Lolita Gooden) hip hop’s first female celebrity. She blazed a trail followed by Lil’ Kim, Salt-N-Pepa and Queen Latifah – although Shante didn’t share their success.
After two albums, Shante said, she was disillusioned by the sleazy music industry and swindled by her record company. The teen mother, living in the Queensbridge Houses, recalled how her life was shattered.
“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.”
Of course they did.
So what does Dr. Shante do now?
“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.”
Shante, 38, is also active in the community. She offers $5,000 college scholarships each semester to female rappers through the nonprofit Hip Hop Association.
She also dispenses advice to young women in the music business via a MySpace page.
“I call it a warning service, so their dreams don’t turn into nightmares,” she said.”
Inspiring and wonderful. Roxanne started out as a pawn in the rap game, and now she’s achieved her dreams and is doing everything in her power to assist her community. There’s even a film about the Juice Crew in the works, and brilliant young actress Keke Palmer is set to play Roxanne. I love it!
Click here to visit her MySpace page. Kudos and big respect, Dr. Shante! Your story is infinitely inspiring!