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Obasi Shaw took his Harvard thesis to another level when he dropped the school’s first rap thesis album with Liminal Minds.

The senior English major, who graduates this week, said it took a year to write the album, which draws inspiration from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and today’s current race issues.

“Black people in America are kind of caught between freedom and slavery,” he told the Harvard Gazette. “They’re free, but the effects of slavery still exist in society and in people’s subconscious. Each song is an exploration of black liminality, that state between slavery and freedom.”

Shaw’s foray into rap music started with Christian rap, and he draws inspiration from rappers like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper. The 10-song album includes messages about being black in America and is 36 minutes long.


“The last song is hopeful, but it ends with the question about forgiveness even for a colored boy,” Shaw said.

So what did Shaw receive as his thesis grade? An A, of course, and the next student to attempt the rap-thesis feat will have some shoes to fill. While Shaw is heading to Google for a software engineer internship, rapping is definitely something he doesn’t want to stop doing.


“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.”⠀