HARVARD STUDENT Obasi Shaw will be graduating with an A- after submitting a hip-hop album as his dissertation.
The 20-year-old says his 10-track album Liminal Minds was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and his own hobby of writing rap music and spoken word poetry.
It combines “elements of Middle English poetry with issues of racial identity in America,” he said of the work, which took him a year to write.
He added: “[African-Americans are] free, but the effects of slavery still exist,” says Shaw. “Each song is an exploration of that state between slavery and freedom.”⠀
Senior students at Harvard aren’t usually expected to write dissertations but if they want to graduate with honours, they do have to do one.
He got the idea from his mum, who noticed her son writing rap music and performing it at open mic nights on campus.
So instead of submitting an essay or a collection of poems he put together this album.
“Rap is a genre in which I can say everything I want to say,” Shaw said. “I’ve been writing in different capacities, but I never felt that I found my art form until I started rapping.”
Harvard confirmed the news, writing on Instagram: “After graduation, Shaw will move to Seattle for a one-year internship in software engineering. As for rap, he’ll keep it as a treasured hobby.”
Last year Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly and Nas’ Illmatic were both added to the Harvard Library to signify their cultural significance.
Obasi’s thesis is the first of its kind in the university’s history, which was established in 1636.