Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My Slate piece: 'Roxanne's Nonexistent Revenge'

When I read this New York Daily News piece about 80s rapper Roxanne Shanté supposedly getting Warner Music to pay for her education for life (including a Ph.D. from Cornell), I knew something just didn't smell right. I've read enough entertainment industry contracts to know that companies simply don't enter into contracts like that.

So I started digging. Little did I realize what I would find:
  • According to Warner, neither it nor any of its subsidiary record labels ever had a contract with Shanté, and it was not obligated to pay for her education. Indeed, there's no evidence that it ever did.
  • Shanté—real name Lolita Shanté Gooden—doesn't have a Ph.D. from Cornell or anywhere else. Indeed, she admitted that to me in an interview. And Cornell has no record of Gooden (or "Shanté") ever attending or receiving a degree.
  • According to Marymount Manhattan College records, Shanté enrolled there but dropped out less than four months later without ever earning a degree.
  • New York state records indicate that no one named Lolita Gooden or Roxanne Shanté is licensed to practice psychology or any related field.
Read my piece in Slate for the whole story.

UPDATE: Shanté told the following to
I'm just gonna let it go...What he's trying to do is trying to get himself known, to get the popular sites to read after him. This is not a $5 billion Ponzi scheme. What would make someone go so hard and heavy at that?
In other words, she does not dispute anything in the Slate piece.


  1. A worthwhile unmasking, if ever I read one. Just goes to show that stories that sound too good to be true probably aren't.

    Aside: Ironic how Techdirt once again puts its credibility in question (or is that a given?) Will they ever learn?

  2. thanks. wanted to know why you thought to dig in the first place. so many people wanted to believe this story.

  3. One of the commenters said that VH1 had reported this or done a special on it or something before the Daily News found it.

  4. Nice job on this. Assume you looked for Dawkins @ North Jersey Record. Not sure if he's still there, but he comes up as a staff writer.

    This could be his, too:

  5. If you want to read about a REAL Rapper turned Ivy Leaguer and soon to be Lawyer & PHD check out Mecca Starr who appeared on 3 the hardway with Bahamadia in the 90's. She is no big rap star but a fixture in the underground female mc world and she graduated (with a high gpa I might add) from UPENN and is now in law school. She also used to own a high end boutique in Philly on South Street and has helped countless people with her business accumen and motivation. Now THATS a great story...and a real one

    google her name Mecca S. Bey or Mecca Starr for more info

  6. Interestingly, it looks like the story didn't start last month:

    Published: August 17, 2006 11:41 am

    Guest speaker Dr. Roxanne Shante — whom Sagara calls “an amazing influence” — will take the stage from 2 to 3 p.m. to discuss the history of hip-hop and the music industry, using her own experiences in the early days of the culture as a basis for the talk. Recognized as the first female rapper in the mid 1980s, Shante used a clause in the contract for her successful career in the industry to bankroll her education and launch her current career as a psychologist.

    “She is a proponent of making the music industry work for you, instead of you working for the music industry,” Sullivan said."


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