An Ivy League student, Obasi Shaw, will be graduating with one of the highest accolades after submitting a 10-track rap album for his final thesis, the first to do so in the history of the university.
Titled Liminal Minds, Shaw spent a year writing the project. Each song is told from the perspective of a different character, supposedly inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. It focuses on black identity in America and was awarded summa cum laude minus, which is the second highest grade in the department.
Undergraduates at the university do not need to submit senior theses, but for those wishing to graduate with honours, it is a requirement. Rather than write an essay, collection of poems or a piece of prose, Shaw decided to try something different. It was Shaw’s mother who sparked the initial idea, after noticing her son write raps and perform them at open mic nights on campus.
The 20-year-old, originally from Stone Mountain, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta, said he “never thought it would be accepted by Harvard”. He also didn’t think the unique thesis would be accepted. “I didn’t think they would respect rap as an art form enough for me to do it,” he said. Shaw, however, received the equivalent of an A-minus — meaning he will graduate with honors.
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