Obasi Shaw, a senior at Harvard University, submit his own rap album as his senior thesis.


Shaw is set to graduate from the prestigious school next week, and produced his album called Liminal Minds while others worked on essays, novels, and poems. The 10-track album is the first ever to be submit at Harvard. Shaw found inspiration in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and weaved that with current race issues.

“[African-Americans are] free, but the effects of slavery still exist,” Shaw told the Harvard Gazette. “Each song is an exploration of that state between slavery and freedom.” Shaw was born in Atlanta and was homeschooled by his parents, both Harvard grads. Shaw credits his mother with the idea for his thesis.

Shaw grew up listening to Christian rap and then moved to more popular and modern rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper only two years ago. On one of his tracks, “Open Your Eyes,” Shaw says, “Just watch the thrones, our people are known / For making history of the impossible / From rap to White House, we unstoppable / Jumping Jim Crow to playing Oscar roles.”

“Some people don’t consider rap a high art form, but poetry and rap are very similar. Rhyming poems were very common in old English poetry,” Shaw says. “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.”

The student received summa cum laude minus marks for his album, which is the second highest grade a student can earn in the department. “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,” describes his thesis advisor Josh Bell.

Shaw does not plan to pursue a career in music, but will continue rapping as a hobby. He plans to work for a software engineering company in Seattle following graduation.


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