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Where Are They Now?: Roxanne Shante

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There are female MCs, and then there’s Roxanne Shante. The original bad girl blindsided Hip-Hop fans in 1984 with the Marley Marl produced “Roxanne’s Revenge,” her clever lifting of UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne.” At 14, she was already a superstar and began battling (many times unprovoked) everyone from Kurtis Blow to MC Lyte. At 21 she abruptly retired, obtaining a PhD in Psychology from Cornell University and opening Hip Hop Ices, an ice cream parlor in Queens. Since then she hasn’t looked back.Now 16 years removed from her final album and a Juice Crew reunion at last week’s A3C Hip-Hop Festival in Atlanta, Dr. Roxanne Shante shows life can be great after Hip-Hop stardom.AllHipHop.com:  You’re one of the few MCs that has been able to transition successfully to other venues outside of Hip-Hop, education wise and business wise. Was this a conscious decision early on in your career or were these ventures you pursued once you saw the direction Hip-Hop was going in?Shante: Well the reason I was able to make such an easy transition was due to pursuing my education. With education it opens a lot of doors and the more knowledge you have the more choices you’re able to make.  And I really credit going to school for that, because that wasn’t something I always thought about. At the age of 14 I’m thinking about Gucci sneakers and bamboo earrings. I wasn’t thinking about purchasing a jewelry store and probably could have done that by the age of 17 if someone had guided me in the right direction. But I’m blessed and really happy at the choices I made in the timeframe that I did.AllHipHop.com: As you were saying (on stage) you’ve pretty much battled everyone: BDP, Sparky D, Yo-Yo…Shante: (Chuckles)AllHipHop.com: Out of everyone you’ve went through, who do feel was your most formidable opponent, if anyone was?Shante: Believe or not, Big Daddy Kane. He was my true competition and he made me touch up my skills. If I had to say anybody who made me enhance my vocabulary it would be Kool Moe Dee. He’s phenomenal.

“That (beef) was between you and Shan! You don’t know how to direct your anger?!”

AllHipHop.com: KRS-One on the first Beef DVD recalls a situation were you confronted him….Shante: In the bank (laughs)AllHipHop.com: Right (laughs), about the diss record “The Bridge Is Over,” and the line he had in there (“Roxanne Shante is only good for steady f**king”). To get your side of the story, what exactly happened?Shante: We actually happened to bank at the same bank, and that shows you that we really didn’t have a good accountant (laughs). That means one man controlled everyone’s money, if you have BDP, the Juice Crew, Run DMC, LL Cool J, and everyone going to the same bank on the same day. (All) trying to get their same check at the same time.But I do recall it. Half of it was just (my idea) to skip the line because [KRS] was already at the front. And with the tellers you always had to wait in this long line because we (rappers) didn’t have that type of clout at the bank yet.  So I went up to him and I was like “Listen! That (beef) was between you and Shan! You don’t know how to direct your anger?!”He was like (apologetic voice) “Listen, I wasn’t trying to say that.” So I think we talked all the way until we got up to the teller. And yeah, I was very upset.At one point I really wanted to get physical. And you know God bless Kris for being such a gentleman because I was really up in his face.  (laughs) And very loud. Wow, now that I recall it I need to call him up and apologize again.AllHipHop.com: No one tried to kick you out the bank?Shante: At that time they (tellers) weren’t as brazen as they are now. They were like, “No, just let them argue with each other… as long as we don’t have to come from out the back.” (laughs)AllHipHop.com: Female emcees these days have become marginalized, at least on a mainstream level. What do you think is the cause of that?Shante: What has happened is that people don’t concentrate on talent anymore.  Now it’s become (about) who is more marketable. In order for something to be marketable, the whole goal is to sell it by all means and all costs. And I think because of that they’re never really looked at as a true talent, instead they’re looked at as a marketable object. And because of that they’re only as good as their expiration or shelf date.AllHipHop.com: I know that you mentor a lot of younger (female) artists. What values do you try to instill in them?Shante: I really try to instruct them on things to watch out for, and also how to keep certain things separate. You finally learn that your record company should not house your lawyer and accountant. I’ve learned from experience that everything needs to be in a separate entity. So that’s the main lesson I focus on. And that includes that your boyfriend can’t be your manager. You can’t do the dual thing, everyone needs to be separate.

“Foxy has a whole different type of spunk that I love… I’m one of the few rappers that goes to see Foxy now on a weekly basis.”

AllHipHop.com: Are there any new female emcees out there that impress you at all?Shante: (Pauses) That’s a hard question for me when I listen to female rappers of today. We’re gonna exclude Foxy and Remy because I put them on a whole different pedestal. Like Remy I think is totally phenomenal, her pen game is incredible. Let alone I like the fact that she’ll definitely go in and battle, so I admire that.Foxy has a whole different type of spunk that I love. Plus people see her as the underdog since everyone is always coming at her. So I like that, as far as (previously) being the one with your back against the wall and having to go at everybody.So those two (Foxy and Remy), I put in their own separate category.  Now as far as other female rappers of today I really don’t do too much listening. Sometimes it’s the content…not saying that I’ve always said the best in lyrics, but some things I feel are a little too vulgar.  So maybe I’ve reached that point with Hip-Hop as far as my listening.Was that a great way of dodging that question?AllHipHop.com: That was pretty good. (Laughs)Shante: (Laughs)AllHipHop.com: Now a lot people may not know but you were one of the first Hip-Hop artists to work with Rick James (1990’s “Loosey’s Rap”). How was it working with Rick and what were your impressions of him?Shante: Rick James? Incredible….incredible. It was more than just a musical experience. When you work with Rick James it is a life experience. People don’t know but when he was going through his incarceration I visited him and everything. I don’t forget…I never forget (about those struggling). I’m one of the few rappers that goes to see Foxy now on a weekly basis.  And even with Rick he was such an incredible talent, and he’s a perfect example of what the industry does to you when they feel you’ve hit your expiration date.AllHipHop.com: You’re a vegan, correct?Shante: I was! I’m telling you what’s so good is that everyone remembers that. So that might be a sign that I need to go back to it (Laughs).AllHipHop.com: One last question. You still do really well on stage. Do you ever get the feeling that you’d want to make a comeback album, or an album period?Shante: No. I love being a legend and would not tamper with it.

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