Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen the television ad for Dr. Pepper where spokes-rapper Dr. Dre utters the phrase, “Trust me, I’m a doctor.” But while Dre’s doctorate is fantastical at best, Roxanne Shante’s PhD is as real as her hip hop career was back in the 80’s, and paid for by Warner Music. All $217,000 of it.
Shante (born Lolita Gooden) hit it big in the 80’s at age 14 with her hip hop single “Roxanne’s Revenge.” Then a teenage mother herself raised by a single mother, Shante failed to cope with the underhanded nature of the industry, which was cheating her out of royalty checks. At age 19, out of the music business and living in public housing, Shante recalled a clause in her contract with Warner Music that promised her a lifetime of education paid for by her former record label.
Seeing the clause as a kind gesture at best, Warner Music likely never expected a teen mother from the projects to pursue a college education, let alone a doctorate in psychology from Cornell. In 2001, after years of legal debate, Roxanne Shante completed her PhD debt free, and now runs an unconventional therapy practice aimed at helping the African-American community, who she says still see therapy as taboo. Although she still has plenty of work to do in the urban community, it looks like Roxanne’s revenge was pretty sweet after all.