Who would think of submitting a rap album as their final year dissertation? Well, a
Well, a 20-year-old Harvard University student, Obasi Shaw from Atlanta did. In his 10-track album titled Liminal Minds, each song focuses on the black identity in America. The album was awarded the second highest grade in the department – a summa cum laude minus, equivalent to an A- here in Kenya.On his interview with the Harvard Gazette, Mr. Shaw said that the songs were an exploration between slavery and freedom.
Rather than writing an essay, novels, poems and short stories like all his other classmates, Mr. Shaw’s unique idea, which was sparked by his mother, really impressed his thesis adviser. Josh Bell, thesis adviser was extremely impressed by Mr. Shaw’s originality and creativity. He told the Harvard Gazette how Shaw told stories in each song from different points of view, it was critical of American society and racial politics. He also found the album fun and interesting.
In his younger days, Mr. Shaw listened to Christian rap music and only started to listen to prominent rappers such as Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lemar recently. Mr. Shaw in his interview talked of how some people do not consider rap as a high art form because, for him, poetry and rap were very similar. He went further and recalled how poems were very common in the old English poetry. “Rap is a genre 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,” he said.
Mr. Shaw will not venture into music as a career though, and he plans to intern for an IT firm after graduating, but will still pursue rapping as a hobby. Mr. Shaw’s story comes as an eye opener to many universities in the world, especially here in Kenya where higher university education has been bashed by key stakeholders in the education industry, including Education Cabinet Secretary Dr. Fred Matiang’i . Making necessary shifts and changes in the University education setup could make for a more inclusive learning system.We can only hope our Kenyan education dons can accept and appreciate such authenticity and creativity in future.
This article was written by Capital Campus Correspondent Isaac Shiundu.