A Harvard student, Obasi Shaw, has become the first in the history of the university to submit a rap album for his thesis.
Shaw, who will graduate from the university next week, produced his album, Liminal Minds, while his mates worked on novels, poems, and short stories.
The 10-track album is inspired by Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with the current race issues.
Shaw will receive an honours degree, graduating summa cum laude while his album thesis earned him an A – the second highest grade a student can receive in the department.
“[African-Americans are] free, but the effects of slavery still exist.”
“Each song is an exploration of that state between slavery and freedom,” Shaw said.
“Rap is a genre in which I can say everything I want to say”, he added.
“I’ve been writing in different capacities, but I never felt that I found my art form until I started rapping.”
Shaw grew up listening to Christian rap, and started to listen to more well-known rappers such as Kendrick Lemar and Chance the Rapper only two years ago.
He was inspired by Kendrick Lemar”s treatment of race, black identity and religion.
On one of his tracks, Open Your Eyes, Shaw raps: “Just watch the thrones, our people are known. For making history of the impossible. From rap to White House, we unstoppable. Jumping Jim Crow to playing Oscar roles“.
Josh Bell, Shaw’s thesis adviser, was highly impressed by the work and said: “Shaw is telling stories in each song from different points of view, and it’s critical of American society and racial politics. But above all that, it’s a fun and interesting album.”
Shaw is not pursuing a career in music, and after graduating plans to intern for at a software engineering firm.