A high-flying Harvard university graduate has graduated with honours from his class after submitting his rap album as final thesis.
A rap album is hardly a conventional final project to hand in at Harvard University.
But one student has done just this as his final creative writing thesis and has not only passed but is graduating with one of the University’s highest accolades.
His work is the first submission of its kind in the University’s history. While his peers are submitting novels, memoirs, poems and short stories for the final stage of the course, Obasi Shaw’s less-traditional submission – titled Liminal Minds – has paid off.
As well as being a modern album – tackling issues such as racial politics and American society – it also draws influence from old English literature, in particular Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
You can see how he mixes up these two worlds in his opening song, ‘Declaration of Independence’ which covers police violence with old English influences in his style: ‘A nation due for inspection, this is the audit, herein – lies the fear in the eyes of our departed dearly – cold bodies facing .22, man in blue.’
The 20-year-old grew up in Atlanta and exclusively listened to Christian rap before discovering the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, then finally beginning to sing and rap himself.
While he’d previously considered it just a hobby, it was his mother who suggested he write a rap thesis. So as a form of ‘background reading’ he began by listening to mainstream rap, which he says he didn’t like due to some of its violent, misogynistic and explicit lyrics. So Obasi went deeper, and started learning about rap history.
‘I needed to learn what rap has meant to people for decades,’ he told Harvard Gazette.
‘Rap is a genre in which I can say everything I want to say.
‘I’ve been writing in different capacities, but I never felt that I found my art form until I started rapping.’