Roxanne Shante: An Incredible Journey

Roxanne Shante’s name recently surfaced and grabbed headlines due to a recent lawsuit she filed against R&B diva Janet Jackson. For those old enough to remember, Shante was [is] one of the most well known and well respected early figures from rap. As part of Marley Marl’s Juice Crew, Shante, at the tender age of […]

Roxanne Shante’s

name recently surfaced and grabbed headlines due to a recent lawsuit she filed

against R&B diva Janet Jackson.

For those old enough

to remember, Shante was [is] one of the most well known and well respected early

figures from rap. As part of Marley Marl’s Juice Crew, Shante, at the

tender age of 14, caught everyone’s ear in 1984 with “Roxanne’s


The record contained

the 14-year-old delivering an amazing verse in one of the first of many responses

to U.T.F.O’s#### “Roxanne, Roxanne.”

The hit took her

for a ride on the rollercoaster of the music business and the experience was

so difficult, Shante hopped off the bizarre ride by the time she was 18-years-old.

She compares Hip-Hop

to a ‘bad boyfriend’ and reveals that the rap game didn’t

treat her as well as “he” could have.

Despite the pitfalls,

Shante held on and now runs a successful psychology practice in New York. Her

story is inspirational, at the least.

Why are you suing Janet Jackson?

Roxanne Shante:

Personally, I don’t have a problem with her. I just figured, maybe it

was just an oversight that they didn’t pay the invoice for using my voice

on the record. I figured you know, maybe this is something that she over looked

with the breast popping out, it just caught up in the mix. So I fell back off

of it, like when they get around to it, they’ll get around to it. But

then someone contacted me from their office, trying to say that it wasn’t

my voice, which really infuriated me.

What song is it?

RS: It’s

song #13 on Damita Jo, “Like You Don’t Love Me.” It’s the familiar “So Fresh”

words that everyone samples. Any true hip-hop head is gonna say, when we hear

those words “so fresh,” we know that’s Shante.

Do you own the rights to those earlier recordings now?

RS: Yes I do.

That came out on the Pop Art record label out of Philadelphia, right?

RS: Yes. I’ve

owned the masters for over 9 years. What people will try to say is that they

took it from the Biz Markie record, “Nobody Beats the Biz,” but

it doesn’t come from that, it comes from “The Def Fresh Crew.”

Biz was on the Pop Art label too.

Is this the first type of lawsuit you have had to go through like this?

RS: Usually it

doesn’t have to go as far as a lawsuit. Usually they rectify it and admit

that it’s my voice. All it takes is one true hip-hop head in the circle

to say “you know what, that is her voice.” I don’t care how

many times you try to say it’s not; you know that is her voice. So let’s

just pay her for it. She could pay me for what she would pay for one of her

handbags. It wasn’t a big deal. I don’t feel like I am being wronged

by the industry or anything like that though.

So you’re happy with life?

RS: Out of all

the old school rappers that I quote unquote know or socialize with, I am ok

and I am fine. Shante is happy. Life after Hip-Hop for me has been better than

Hip-Hop had ever been to me.

What are you up to know?

RS: I am a psychologist

with a private practice in Manhattan. I also do a lot of voiceovers for certain

cartoon characters, I do a lot overseas.

What cartoon characters?

RS: I can’t

really discuss it yet, but I can say is that it’s three little girls who

are superheroes involved.

With your private practice and your other endeavors doing well, do you ever

plan to come back to Hip-Hop?

RS: I love Hip-Hop.

It will always be a part of me. But Hip-Hop is like a bad relationship for me.

When I dated Hip-Hop, it didn’t buy the things for rappers that it buys

now. I talk about Hip-Hop like it was a relationship. It was like a man. It

wasn’t that good to me. I enjoyed it, but everyone else was making me

a commodity and really taking advantage of me. It turned it into something I

didn’t like. So it would have to be incredible for me to come back.

How did people take advantage of you?

RS: Well, you know

my age.

How old were you?

RS: I was 14, with

no parents, no guardian, and no accountants.

What happened to your parents?

RS: They weren’t

around. I was on my own. I didn’t really have any guidance. So I was just

going and doing as I was told. So when you had people like Marley Marl telling

me after a show that I am supposed to split the money evenly, I believed that.

Was your relationship with Marley Marl more than a friendship and business relationship?

RS: Umm..uhh..My

relationship with Marley was, I don’t know how I can explain it. My relationship

with Marley wasn’t as good as it should have been. I am not a scorned

woman or a mad girlfriend.

You were only 14 when this all happened? When did you know you wanted to get

out of it?

RS: When I was


So what did you do, take the money that you made from the rap game and go back

to school?

RS: No. When I

left the rap game, I left with absolutely nothing. I left with nothing. I couldn’t

even get books. They would say "Don’t worry about it Shante, I’ll

meet you at Barnes and Nobles and we’ll get the books.” I couldn’t

even get them to help me with books. They supported the negative things, but

they couldn’t support the positive.

How did you make it through school?

RS: There was a

clause in my contract that said they had to pay for my education. Regardless

of how far it went. And what happened was, they felt like she’s 14. By

the time I was 15 I was pregnant with my son. They felt like they could through

that in there because they thought I would never use it. I mean they were like

“look at her now.” They thought I was going to get on drugs. I didn’t.

And as long as they had my school covered, I was good. I didn’t get school

loans, so I had to copy pages out of other people’s books. I would stand

in front of the machine with a bunch of nickels and make copies. Page for page

for page for page. And every time I copied a page, my love for Hip-Hop was going

away, more and more and more. My story isn’t a happy one, but it had a

happy ending. I was straight out of the group home; they dangled the custody

of my son over my head because I was so young, so Hip-Hop became a labor of

love. If you don’t do this, this is what’s going to happen. One

day I was finally like you know what? Forget it. It was right around the time

I became a Vegan.

How old were you when you decided to be a Vegan?

RS: 18. I would

see people devouring meat and then acting like animals. I just figured it had

something to do with the food.

Did it help calm you down? Did you notice a change in your own behavior?

RS: I noticed that

my own anger subsided, incredibly. I wasn’t as hurt or as mad as I was

in the beginning. What’s gonna be is gonna be.

What were you hurt and angry about?

RS: I was hurt

and angry at the fact that it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. We

were all supposed to come out of the projects together, go buy houses together,

go buy cars together, we were supposed to do it all together and be a family

unit, which is what I thought we were. When your young and you’re getting

$5,000 a show and no one says to you, you know what? You’re the headliner.

So, you need to pay Marley like he’s your DJ. [Fly] Ty like he’s

your manager? I didn’t do that. They came to me and would say ‘you

did a show and there are 5 of us. We’re all supposed to get $1,000 each.’

I believed that. Do you still talk to any of those guys?

RS: I still talk

to Ty. I realized that anger isn’t going to get me anywhere or for me

to hold grudges. I don’t talk to Marley. I talk to Biz everyday. They

were my siblings in the family, so you can’t hold them accountable for

what the mother and father did. You can’t be mad at your brother’s

and sisters. You can’t start hating your label mates. Even when they start

to learn more. It does hurt when they learn, but don’t share.

Psychology. What made you go into that profession? Was it because of what you

had been through in your life?

RS: I know what

made me choose psychology was the fact that I knew where my loyalty lied. I

knew why I felt what I felt. But I couldn’t understand why they did the

things they did. I needed to know to be able to foresee this, should this ever

happen again. I never saw the signs. I never saw them for who they were. It’s

just like how you can be in a relationship with someone, and you say “I

know we can make it, I know it can work out.” But in all reality you may

be seeing what you want to see and you’re hoping that person feels the

same. I had my good times and my bad times. Had something’s that I wanted

to do and a lot of things I was supposed to do.

As time went on,

you set yourself up for certain positive entities in your life. And one of the

most positive entities I have come across in my career in Hip-Hop is The Royalty

Network. The Royalty Network is something that every Hip-Hop artist should be

familiar with them.

I know them, my friend Alyssa used to work there.

RS: Well they picked

up where Suge’s intentions left off. When Suge came along in the industry,

he came into the industry like a savior for us. And I mean the artists who were

being slaved out of their royalties, their writing and publishing. It was like

there’s this guy named Suge getting people out of their contracts and

making deals.

Did Suge help you get out of your deal?

RS: Laughs…You

know? He didn’t. But everyone was trying to find Suge, because he was

doing what we needed at that time. People were being abused. The Royalty Network

came along at the right time. They work for me or other rappers and entertainers.

You can fall back and they can help you get what’s yours. Sometimes the

percentage that you get is better than sitting home and not getting anything.

There’s a lot of people and artists out there who have Royalties out there,

but do not know how to go get them. They just chalk it up as a loss. The Royalty

Network doesn’t accept losses. I was I would have found them 20 years


One last thing.

I can still rhyme with the best of them. I never lost that. If Roxanne Shante

was to do another record, know that the people involved are going to be incredible,

their persona, the budget, the producers, their offer was incredible.

So if everything is incredible you’ll come back?

RS: Definitely.