A Harvard University senior is feeling good after receiving an A-, and an honors degree for his debut rap album.
Obasi Shaw is the first student in the history of the university to submit a rap album as a take on what it means to be Black in America. The album was inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century classic, The Canterbury Tales and other forms of literature. Shaw earned an A- as a result of submitting the work, which is enough to ensure he will graduate with honors next week.
“I never thought it would be accepted by Harvard,” Shaw told the Associated Press. “I didn’t think they would respect rap as an art form enough for me to do it.”
Liminal Minds is a 10-track album that Shaw describes as dark and moody. Each song is told from the perspective of a different character, an idea inspired by Chaucer’s famous piece of literature. Shaw also draws on the work of James Baldwin for inspiration, as he tackles topics ranging from police violence to slavery.
Harvard English Lecturer, Josh Bell, serves as Shaw’s adviser. He said Shaw is a “serious artist” and overall “amazing guy.”
“He was able to turn around an album that people in the English Department would like very much but also that people who like rap music might like,” said Bell.
While Harvard grads aren’t required to submit senior theses, most departments require them to graduate with honors.
Shaw, who will head to Seattle to work as a software engineer at Google after graduation, plans to push the album online for free in hopes of it opening doors to the music industry.
I’m still not satisfied with the quality of the production just yet, but I’m constantly learning and growing,” Shaw said.
Talk about innovation.