Roxanne Shanté (born Lolita Shanté Gooden; November 9, 1969) is an American hip-hop pioneer. Born and raised in the Queensbridge Projects of Queens, NYC, Shanté first gained attention through the Roxanne Wars and her association with the Juice Crew.
Early life and career edit:
Shanté's career began at the age of fourteen when she entered the influential world of record producer Marley Marl, radio DJ Mr. Magic, and Tyrone Williams, who were talking about how UTFO had canceled its appearance at a show that it was promoting. Shanté offered to record an answer to UTFO's recent hit "Roxanne, Roxanne," which was about a woman who rejects the members of the group. The men agreed and the result was "Roxanne's Revenge," a confrontational and profane song in which Shanté assumed the role of Roxanne, dissing UTFO over a Marley Marl-produced instrumental (The official UTFO response to its own song was "The Real Roxanne," with artists Elease Jacks and later Adelaida Martinez assuming the role of Roxanne and eventually recording under the same stage name as the song title). Shanté's version and the Real Roxanne's version sparked the Roxanne Wars and made Shanté a hip-hop star in the process. The single would go on to sell over 250,000 copies in the New York area alone. One of the founding members of the Juice Crew, most of her tracks would be produced by Marley Marl, with the exception of several songs on Shanté's last album, 1992's The Bitch Is Back.
As an MC, Shanté was renowned for her ability to freestyle (improvise) entire songs. "Roxanne's Revenge" was an example, reportedly written as it was recorded--in one take. However, the original version of the song was rerecorded after UTFO sued over the usage of its original backing track; the new version featured slightly different music with less profanity. People are most familiar with this version, which appears on the original 12-inch single released in 1984, with the original on the reverse side. In 1997 she teamed up with Frankie Cutlass on his third single title "The Cypher Part 3" and some of Marley Marl Juice Crew veterans.
In 1988, Shanté and Rick James had a hit with "Loosey's Rap."
By the age of 25, Shanté was largely retired from the recording industry. She continued to make occasional guest appearances and live performances, as well as mentor young female hip-hop artists. She did the latter by making a cameo appearance on VH1's hip hop reality show Ms. Rap Supreme and gave rap-battle strategies to the finalists of that show. She also took part in a series of Sprite commercials during the late 1990s.
She returned to performing, and in 2008, her song "Roxanne's Revenge" was ranked number 42 on VH1's 100 Greatest Hip Hop Songs; she re-recorded the song the following year.
Biographical claims edit:
It was reported by Blender in 2008 and more extensively in a New York Daily News account in 2009, that Shanté earned her bachelor's degree from Marymount Manhattan College and her Master's and Ph.D in psychology from Cornell University, and that a quirk in her recording contract obligated Warner Music to fund her college education. This was not a new claim by Shanté; she spoke of it in length on the Beef II documentary, which was released in 2004.
However, an investigation by lawyer and journalist Ben Sheffner for Slate magazine found no evidence of Shanté's claims. She was never signed to a Warner Music label, but was under contract to the independent label Cold Chillin' Records, which was in turn distributed by Reprise/Warner Bros. Records from 1987 to 1992. Academic records indicate that she attended only three months at Marymount Manhattan College. Shanté never earned any degree and she is unlicensed by New York State officials to practice psychology or similar disciplines. Shanté told Sheffner that she held a diploma and attended Cornell under a pseudonym because of problems with domestic violence, but she was unable to substantiate these claims.
The Daily News subsequently ran a five-paragraph correction stating Cornell "has now informed us that it has no record of Shanté ever attending the school," that "Warner Music Group now claims it never had a contract with Shanté--only a distribution agreement with her label," and that "after refusing to return numerous calls and e-mails during the preparation of this article, Marymount now states that Shanté attended the college for less than one semester."
"Do I apologize? Yes, I do. But I am not asking for your forgiveness," Shanté said. "I am sorry about a lot of things that I should've done differently. There were quite a few things that have been exposed with that article; the fact that I never received any royalties, the fact that I did go on to attend college (even if no Ph.D. was acquired), and the fact that at 14 years old and coming straight from the group home, I went on to create a career that even after 20 years of not making a hit record, was still pulling headlines. To be called Dr. Roxanne Shante was, and is, a privilege. But with that privilege comes pressure. I also had to live and talk like someone with a doctorate -- not an easy task at all. I had to make sure that people felt healed and inspired after speaking with me. So, yes, I apologize to all those who applied themselves and put in all the hard work that is required to acquire a Ph.D. I admire you all. But don't discredit all the hard work and sacrifices so many others have also done to also reach their goals."
She will be portrayed by actress Keke Palmer in The Vapors, a film about the formation and rise of the Juice Crew.