After failing to keep up with royalty payments, Warner Music has been forced to honor a clause in a rapper’s contract which said the music giant would pay for her education for life. Congratulations go out to the now Dr. Roxanne Shanté, the hip-hop talent behind the 1984 groundbreaker, Roxanne’s Revenge.
Back in 1984, mentored by R&B group Full Force, hip-hop outfit U.T.F.O (Untouchable Force Organization) released a track entitled “Hanging Out” which didn’t enjoy much success at all. However, on the B-side of the single was a track called “Roxanne, Roxanne” which became a hip-hop classic.
“Roxanne, Roxanne” inspired several of what are known as ‘answer records’. Made popular in early blues and R&B tracks, ‘answer records’ respond to the reference track, and in hip-hop these ‘answers’ were often part of a dispute.
The dispute over “Roxanne, Roxanne” arose after U.F.T.O failed to appear at a radio promotional show. A then 14-year-old Lolita Shanté Gooden overhead a conversation between a record producer and a DJ about the no-show and offered to make an ‘answer record’ to get back at them. The classic hip-hop track “Roxanne’s Revenge” was born.
But now, 25 years after the first queen of hip-made her world debut selling 250,000 copies but getting sold short on the royalties, Roxanne really has gotten her revenge on record label Warner Music.
In a brilliant article chronicling an amazing journey, Shanté explains how a quarter of a century on, Warner has had to dig deep to honor a clause in her original contract – to finance her education for life.
At 25 and married with a son and daughter, Shanté left the music business to become a psychologist and, thanks to the long forgotten clause (by Warner at least), she didn’t have to put her hand in her own pocket to find the $217,000 it took to achieve her dreams. But of course, it wasn’t straight forward.
“They [Warner] kept stumbling over their words, and they didn’t have an exact reason why they were telling me no,” Shanté said. But in the end, her persistence paid off.
Dr. Roxanne Shanté earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell and after a long battle in which she threatened to go public, finally got Warner to honor their obligations and hand over the cash.
Good to see Warner being forced to look after their artists, even if it is through gritted teeth.