Doctor Roxanne Shante? No Effin’ Way!

Roxanne Shante
Roxanne Shante

“Yo Kangol/Yeah, wassup man?/There go that girl they call Roxanne?” Those of us who came of age in the 80s remember the “U.T.F.O.” classic “Roxanne, Roxanne.” If so then you also remember there were several rebuttals to the song by women who each claimed themselves to be the “real” Roxanne.

One of them was Roxanne Shante and the then 14 year old scored a hit with “Roxanne’s Revenge,” which sold 250,000 copies, a considerable amount at the time.

Walter Dawkins of the New York Daily News recently caught with the now Ivy League educated, Dr Roxanne Shante, Phd.

“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.”

Some people look at the 1980s rappers still making money (LL Cool J and Rev. Run to name a few) and assume they all made out ok, but that’s a misnomer to be sure. The good doctor told the Daily News it was a mess from the very start.

“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 the story. Shante found an 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, 38, is also active in the community. She offers $5,000 college scholarships each semester to female rappers through the nonprofit Hip Hop Association. Hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons said Shante is a shining role model for the rap community. “Dr. Shante’s life is inspiring,” Simmons said. “She was a go-getter who rose from the struggle and went from hustling to teaching. She is a prime example that you can do anything, and everything is possible.”

Source: NY Daily News

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