A Harvard Student Made A Rap Album For His Thesis & It Earned Him Honors (Audio)
Over the last several years, Harvard University has established itself as one of the leading institutions of higher learning to embrace Hip-Hop and its role in academia. In 2012, producer 9th Wonder (Little Brother, Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar) was named a Harvard Fellow, and taught a course titled The Standards of Hip-Hop for a year. Since then, 9th has remained closely-affiliated with the institution, helping to curate the Hip-Hop items that will be preserved in Harvard’s archives. The next year, the esteemed university established the Nasir Jones Fellowship, “to seek projects from scholars and artists that build on the rich and complex Hip-Hop tradition.” Nas, too, has maintained his connection with Harvard, and just recently sat down with one of its poetry professors to discuss his Illmatic lyrics.
Harvard’s association with Hip-Hop is not limited to Rap royalty, however. Last week, a student made history by becoming the first in the university’s existence to submit a Rap album as his senior thesis. Each year, many seniors choose to explore ideas related to their fields of study, in-depth. Typically, this “thesis” is in the form of a major paper that often approaches or exceeds 100 pages in length. This year, senior Obasi Shaw proposed that he be able to submit a Rap album as his English thesis.
As reported in the Boston Globe, Shaw spent more than a year writing and recording Liminal Minds, his 10-track album that tackles what it means to be Black in America. His songs, which address topics ranging from slavery to police violence, were informed by the works of James Baldwin and Geoffrey Chaucer. “I never thought it would be accepted by Harvard. I didn’t think they would respect Rap as an art form enough for me to do it,” Shaw told the Globe.
Though Shaw says he is still not satisfied with the quality of the production of Liminal Minds, it was good enough in the mind of his English professor to earn him an A-minus. That means Shaw will graduate from Harvard with honors.
Now, Shaw has released the album for full stream, via his SoundCloud profile. While the project is a major accomplishment, he does not intend to pursue a career in Rap…yet. Instead, he will be joining Google as a software engineer when he graduates. Still, not many artists can say their debut album made Harvard history.