Twenty-five years after the first queen of hip-hop was stiffed on her royalty checks, Dr. Roxanne Shante boasts an Ivy League Ph.D. – financed by a forgotten clause in her first record deal.
“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.