A Harvard undergraduate student will be graduating with honors this year after submitting a 10-track rap album for his senior thesis in the English department, the first to do so in the prestigious school’s history.
Obasi Shaw, a 20-year old from a small town in Georgia, Alabama started rapping at a summer Bible camp in Tennessee for fun, according to the Harvard Gazette.
The 10 track album, entitled ‘‘ SHa” (a play of words on “Criminal Minds” ), offers a broad sweep of African American history by drawing on the works of James Baldwin, Barack Obama and dealing with topics ranging from police brutality to slavery. It also highlights Shaw’s own experience of growing up black in America.
Each song is told from a different character’s perspective, a format inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s collection of stories written in the 14th century, The Canterbury Tales.
Shaw’s thesis adviser, English lecturer Josh Bell, praised his student’s creative work for its originality both as an artistic statement and a serious piece of research.
He “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” Bell told the Harvard Gazette.
After review, it was awarded the second highest grade in the department – summa cum laude minus.