Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Dr Roxanne Shante - sponsored, unwillingly, by Warners

UPDATE: The only problem with this story is that it turns out to be completely untrue

The story behind Roxanne Shante's PhD tells you a lot in one sitting about what those major labels are like.

Back when she was 14, Warners signed her up to a contract which promised - somewhat unwisely on Warner's part - to fund her education for life. You can see the cogs turning as that was drafted: A young black rapper from the projects - how much would that cost us anyway? Besides, we'll probably never have to honour the clause...

Trouble is, for Warners, that Shante was as sharp as her rapping, and went on to do a PhD. The quarter of a million dollar bill was posted to Warners and... surprise! They tried to weasel out of it:

"They kept stumbling over their words, and they didn't have an exact reason why they were telling me no," Shante said.

Eventually, Warners were faced with a choice between looking like a bunch of shysters who made wild promises to a fourteen year-old girl to get her to sign a contract, or finding the money from somewhere. They wound up doing both.
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.

Still, Warners must have eventually figured that paying a couple of hundred thousand dollars to keep this sort of story out of the public prints was money well... oh, hang on a moment...