Saturday, September 5, 2009

Roxanne Shanté speaking about her 'Ph.D.'

The New York Daily News' August 23 story "Rapper behind 'Roxanne's Revenge' gets Warner Music to pay for Ph.D." was not the first place Roxanne Shanté claimed to have earned a doctorate from Cornell. Check out this short clip, which I believe is from the 2004 documentary Beef II, in which Shanté tells her story of signing with Warner Music and then getting Warner to pay for her Ph.D. from "Cornell Medical." "I socked it to them [Warner] for over $175,000 worth of education," Shanté says.

As you watch this, keep in mind that Shanté admitted to me in an August 28 interview that she did not earn a Ph.D. from Cornell, or anywhere else. Also, keep in mind that Warner says that neither it nor any of its subsidiary labels ever had a contract with Shanté, let alone one obligating the label to pay for her education. Also notable is that the "over $175,000" Shanté mentions in this clip became "$217,000" in the Daily News article (which the Daily News has now essentially disavowed).

Lastly, note that Shanté says in the video that she got her Ph.D. from "Cornell Medical." However, if one were to pursue a Ph.D. in psychology at Cornell, one would do so through the Department of Psychology, not the medical school. Shanté told me that she got her M.A. in psychology from Cornell. But Cornell told me (and others) that Shanté never attended or earned a degree.


  1. As former journalists, we appreciate a good piece of muckraking as much as anyone else, especially when it comes at the sake of the NY Daily News. (So much for its fact checking operation.) We fell for the dupe as well.

    But at this point, isn't this post a bit gratuitous? We're not talking about outing a head of state, or someone up for a Cabinet post, or even an executive at a publicly traded company. It's a long-retired entertainer who happened to get outed because the primary publication that printed the story didn't do its job, and the subject and the original publication ran into good reporting.

    In the broader scheme of all things copyright, Roxanne Shante's degree status (or lack thereof) means nothing, so it's not worth the extra post to draw out the story.

  2. @Copysense:

    Of course you're right that this incident is not about "outing a head of state, or someone up for a Cabinet post, or even an executive at a publicly traded company." Were that the standard for publication on this blog, I don't think I would have written a singe post. I like doing this blog because I can write about whatever piques my interest at the moment. This story fascinates me, on several levels. First, as an example of how a major American paper can get a story so fundamentally wrong. Second, as illustration of a phenomenon I see daily: lousy reporting about the legal aspects of the music business in particular, much of which appears to stem from an intense dislike of the industry that leads people to accept without question even the most outlandish claims about the labels (and here I'm referring primarily to the blog commentary about the original Daily News story; I don't know what motivated the freelancer who wrote the article). And third, I just find it a fascinating human story, that someone would tell such an audacious falsehood for so long, especially one so easily disproved with a little checking.

    Given the feedback I've received, particularly from journalists, I know that many others found the story interesting as well. And Slate's readers seemed to like it; my piece was the most-read during much of last week (I admit I looked). Several people have asked me to do follow-ups. When I came across this video, I thought it would be interesting for many readers to hear her "Ph.D." claim (which she herself now admits is false) from her own mouth, unfiltered by a reporter. If you disagree, of course that's your right, and I assure you I'll be turning to other topics soon.

  3. I know I'm late--- but she came to my school and spouted out that same falsehood to a group of students-- she's listed as a speaker somewhere---anyway, she told us that she was actually practicing psychology? Also she said she gets paid by Sprite or some soda company to be seen drinking their products in public lol

  4. So today she was on a local radio station. I felt very inclined to look her up. I caught quite a bit of the interview on my way home and key points that she highlighted in her interview with the radio dj. The main point was receiving a bachelors' degree and having it paid for by her record label. She also said how she did not obtain a phd but did finish her bachelors. I can't help but wonder how much of anything she says is true after reading what I have now.

  5. Very shameful Roxanne Shante. Why lie like that?


Comments here are moderated. I appreciate substantive comments, whether or not they agree with what I've written. Stay on topic, and be civil. Comments that contain name-calling, personal attacks, or the like will be rejected. If you want to rant about how evil the RIAA and MPAA are, and how entertainment companies' employees and attorneys are bad people, there are plenty of other places for you to go.