Student submits rap album as thesis - and passes cum laude!

By Kim Abrahams
23 May 2017

The album addresses the issue of racism and other social ills in the American population.

A Master’s Degree in biltong and the first thesis do be done completely in isiXhosa – tertiary institutions have been making for interesting news with their intuitive and groundbreaking deliveries.

Now, across the borders, a Harvard student has submitted a rap album for his thesis, a first in the history of the prestigious university.

Obasi Shaw, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, produced a 10-track album entitled Liminal Minds.

Not only did Obasi make history with his unique submission, he also received one of the university’s highest accolades.

The 20-year-old student passed his final year with summa cum laude minus, the second highest grade a student can receive in the department.

So, from where the idea to transform what is usually a hefty written piece into a rap album?

His mother, Obasi claims.

Obasi and his girlfriend, Christina Phelps. Photo: Facebook Obasi and his girlfriend, Christina Phelps. Photo: Facebook

The graduate says he grew up listening to Christian rap and only two years ago started listening to secular artists like Kendrik Lamar and Chance the Rapper.

He says he was inspired by their treatment of race, black identity and religion.

"African-Americans are free, but the effects of slavery still exist," he told the Harvard Gazette. "Each song is an exploration of that state between slavery and freedom." And the student’s lecturers were clearly impressed.

Josh Bell, Obasi’s thesis adviser, told the Harvard Gazette: “Shaw is telling stories in each song from different points of view, and it’s critical of American society and racial politics. But above all that, it’s a fun and interesting album."

But while Obasi considers rap a "high art form", he has no plans on pursuing a career in it in the future.

After graduating he plans on interning at a software engineering firm in Seattle. But he will continue to spit bars as a hobby.

“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.”

You can listen to his thesis-album here.


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