Harvard English Major Submits Rap Album in Place of a Senior Thesis

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

An English major at Harvard University decided to submit a rap album in place of his senior thesis.

Obasi Shaw elected to record a rap album instead of writing his senior thesis, an effort for which he was rewarded with the grade of A-.

Shaw’s 10-track album focuses on the experience of being black in America. He claims he was partially inspired by Chaucer’s classic text, The Canterbury Tales.

Shaw describes the 10-track album as a dark and moody take on what it means to be black in America. Each song is told from a different character’s perspective, an idea inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s 14th-century classic “The Canterbury Tales.” Shaw, who’s black, also draws on the works of writer James Baldwin while tackling topics ranging from police violence to slavery.

“I never thought it would be accepted by Harvard,” said Shaw, a 20-year-old senior from a small suburb outside of Atlanta. “I didn’t think they would respect rap as an art form enough for me to do it.”

Shaw recorded the tracks over the course of a year at a studio on the Harvard campus. His thesis advisor, Harvard English Lecturer Josh Bell, praised Shaw’s work. Shaw is a “serious artist and he’s an amazing guy,” Bell said.

“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,” Bell added.

Although Shaw has secured a job as a software developer for Google, he hopes that his thesis rap album will open doors for him to pursue music professionally.

“I’m still not satisfied with the quality of the production just yet, but I’m constantly learning and growing,” Shaw said of his album.

Tom Ciccotta is a libertarian who writes about economics and higher education for Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @tciccotta or email him at tciccotta@breitbart.com