This Harvard senior from Atlanta is the school’s first to pen a rap album for his final thesis


This Harvard senior from Atlanta is the school’s first to pen a rap album for his final thesis

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AP Photo/Charles Krupa
Obasi Shaw poses outside the gates of Harvard Yard in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, May 18, 2017. Shaw, an English major who graduates from Harvard next week, is the university's first student to submit his final thesis in the form of a rap album. The record, called “Liminal Minds,” has earned the equivalent of an A- grade, good enough to ensure that Shaw will graduate with honors at the university's commencement next week.

For the first time in Harvard University history, a student submitted a senior thesis in the form of a rap album.

Obasi R. Shaw, a 20-year-old senior from the metro Atlanta suburb of Stone Mountain, presented his English thesis using rhyme and reason to illuminate the black experience in the U.S., tackling topical social issues in a 10-track record called “Liminal Minds,” the Harvard Crimson reported.

His project went on to earn an A-, paving the road for him to graduate with honors next week.

According to the Crimson, Shaw’s creative thesis was inspired by “The Canterbury Tales” and historical leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of his tracks, “Understand,” even incorporates lines from King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

“Liminal Minds” also alludes to the Black Lives Matter movement, former President Barack Obama and segregation and slavery.

"Rap is a historically black form of art, and if I want to tell a story of black people, the most appropriate art form is to use their art form — to use our art form," he told the Crimson. "This is one of the very few forms of art that black people can claim as their own."

When asked about his favorite lines, Shaw quoted a few from “Understand:”

“When the drugs got us hooked like the myth from Peter Pan / Getting high off the dust hoping we never land / Ain’t our own fault we lose our boys in the end.”

Shaw told the Crimson the wordplay in the last line (“in the end”) sounds like “Indian,” and alludes to the Native Americans who supposedly lived in Neverland.

Watch his performance of the track at Harvard’s first Battle of the Bands, where he won first place:

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