In a Harvard University first, a student submitted a 10-track rap album for his final thesis, and was awarded an honours.
Obasi Shaw, 20, wrote his Liminal Minds album in a year and it was awarded the summa cum laude minus (second highest grade in the year!).
Each song on the inspirational album is from a different character’s perspective, focusing on black identity in America.
The format is inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s seminal 14th century piece The Canterbury Tales.
The student, from Georgia, ‘never thought it would be accepted by Harvard’.
As artists like Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Akala, Akua Naru and Loyle Carner are changing perceptions of rap and making it more conscious, the art form has been thrown into literary acclaim.
Nas’ Illamatic and Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly were added to the Harvard Library in acknowledgement of their cultural significance.
Shaw’s first track Declaration of Independence, reads:
Behold, what we hold is three-fold—Body and spirit to be thrones for free souls. Self is the evidence, please close the freak shows, And depose the evils, our peoples are equals
Harvard English lecturer Josh Bell was highly impressed with his student’s use of James Baldwin to talk about slavery and police violence, praising the album for its fluidity as an academic piece and an artistic creation.
It’s refreshing to see traditional Ivy League institutions opening their minds to different methods of academic expression.
I wish I submitted my dissertation through expressive dance.