This Graduating Senior Made Harvard History With a Hip Hop Album Senior Thesis

The fear of graduating college can get heavy. The list of concerns is long. “Will I have enough credits?”. “Will I pass my final exams?”. Well, one graduating senior took this fear to another level by adding a new worry to the FAQ sheet: Will the Harvard board accept a Hip Hop album as a senior thesis?!

This is a question that 20 year-old Obasi Shaw found himself asking this past semester and he finally got his answer. Not only will they accept it, if it is good enough, it will get you a diploma with honors!

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Obasi Shaw '17 submitted Harvard's first rap thesis, "Liminal Minds," which combines elements of Middle English poetry with issues of racial identity in America. “[African-Americans are] free, but the effects of slavery still exist," says Shaw. "Each song is an exploration of that state between slavery and freedom.”⠀ ⠀ After graduation, Shaw will move to Seattle for a one-year internship in software engineering. As for rap, he’ll keep it as a treasured hobby. “Rap is a genre in which I can say everything I want to say,” Shaw said. “I’ve been writing in different capacities, but I never felt that I found my art form until I started rapping.”⠀ ⠀ #Harvard #Harvard17

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The 10 track mixtape/album titled Liminal Minds was a semester long labor of love by Shaw that he took on after running out of possible ideas for a senior thesis (A feeling all to familiar for a lot of us).

The project explores the conflicts associated with race, identity and acceptance in black America through a combination of melody, spoken word poetry and good old fashion rapping. Up until now, Harvard has never received, approved or accepted such a project as a senior thesis. An impressive accomplishment for someone who doesn’t primarily study music (he is graduating with a Computer Science degree).

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Being a senior in college can be scary. How we would want to spend our final semester is often at odds with the pressures from work, final exams and projects. To make matters worse, the fear of “what’s next” can be all to real.

But something they neglect to emphasize in college is that real life is mostly a mix of luck and a lot of risk taking. It’s about going out on limbs and taking chances, not knowing “what’s next.”

Hard work simply helps create opportunities for this mix to occur. Shaw, like many other successful people in Harvard history, has learned early on that the best bet you can make in life is on yourself.

By utilizing something he loves, he was able to kill two birds with one stone and become the first Harvard graduate to satisfy his final thesis requirement with a hip hop album. Something which, by the way, is just flat out freaking awesome! A story like that will definitely crush in interviews. Also, the music itself is really good! Take a listen below.

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