Roxanne Shante, PhD.

When you write a battle rap at the age of 14 that just happens to become an insta-classic and a pioneering work of female-fronted hip-hop, you can’t be expected to think of everything. And you certainly can’t be expected to make sure your royalty contract is iron-clad, when you’re barely out of the eighth grade. Roxanne Shante, born Lolita Gooden and best known for 1984’s “Roxanne’s Revenge,” gave up on the fledgling rap music industry after two albums and paltry financial returns on her musical investments. Signed to Warner Bros., Shante had very little to show for her breakout hit and subsequent fame—until at the age of 19, she remembered the fine print on her recording contract.

Warner Bros. had included a clause promising to pay for Shante’s education. Faced with pennilessness, she decided to cash in on that promise:

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.

Shante found an arm-twisting ally 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.

By 2001, Warner Bros. had funded Shante’s entire college education–up to and including the PhD in psychology she earned that year from Cornell University.

Total cost of education: $217,000. Roxanne’s Revenge: priceless.

Read more about the lawsuit, Roxanne’s fight for tuition money, and her current career as founder of a therapy practice for urban African Americans and funder of scholarships for female rappers through her nonprofit, Hip Hop Association.


slb (aka Stacia L. Brown) is a writer, mother, and college instructor in Baltimore, MD. Check her out here: and here:
  • shani-o

    This is well and truly awesome.

  • Leigh

    This is a kick-a** story! It’s especially fabulous as I’m doing some internal consulting to MIT right now, and reading about all the industry $$ that goes to the school, in part funding lots of students’ research and training at companies.

    Go Roxanne!!

  • blackink12

    I love this story. I really do.

    And, not to forget, she really did get the best of UTFO.

  • lsn

    That is just brilliant.

  • ladyfresh

    i’m proud. a great moment in hiphop


  • LaJane Galt

    I love it!!!

  • Robyn

    This is absolutely amazing!! Roxanne Shante has been added to my hero list.

  • keke

    All I can say is Awesome!!!

  • LJ

    This is AWESOME!!! Big music labels punking young artist and in this case, the artist got their own back. Good for her!!!! Now she should try to do post-doc work on their dime! High-five to this sister.

  • oldseagoat


  • bitchphd

    Fucking. Awesome. Love this woman like a mad thing. I want to have her babies.

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  • Gina

    The one time fine print actually helped.

  • Shawn

    This is an incredible story, thanks for sharing it. I knew she had a PhD but didn’t know any of this backstory. I grew up listening to her tunes, and now I’m in my final year of my PhD. Roxanne Shante is an inspiration in more ways than one. Roxanne’s Revenge indeed. I just hope all the rising rappers out today are taking heed to her story.

  • Nando

    Awesome! I didn’t know about her struggles with Warner Bros (no surprise there – SCREW the record companies!). Lesson learned here: ALWAYS read the fine print. After this story, I admire here even more. Way to go Dr. Gooden!

  • pprscribe

    Kudos to Dr. Shante on behalf of everyone who has ever struggled to get that PhD! I absolutely love this story and am glad it is being picked up so many places.

  • nbee

    That’s cool. I wish here more continious success :)

  • nbee


  • BoogalooBaby

    I agree, nice story on Roxy, a cool blast of the past, and refreshing news of her legacy to hip hop.

    Right on!

  • Dennis

    I love when the “small people” stick it to the big corporations. They have all their money, power and million dollor lawyers thinking they can run the world. Priceless post

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  • DJ Jones

    I am sending this article to my 18 and 17 year old daughters. Thank you thank you thank you. God bless you.

  • Adam Henne

    Holy shit, I had no idea. That’s fantastic!

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