PhD to the Beat: Clemson Doctoral Student Creates Rap Album On Blackness For Dissertation

A Clemson University Ph.D. candidate decided to forgo a traditional dissertation for a more creative platform: a 34-track rap album.

A.D. Carson wanted to use hip-hop and spoken word to explore the areas of identity, justice economics, citizenship and language for his rhetorics, communication and information design program. So he wrote and produced “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions” He’s the first Clemson student to opt out of the traditional, written form.

In an article for the campus outlet, Carson said the project isn’t meant as a gimmick, but his way of discussing the role race and identity plays in society today.

“The central thesis of my dissertation is: Are certain voices treated differently?” Carson said. “I’m trying to examine how an authentically identifiable black voice might be used or accepted as authentic, or ignored, or could answer academic questions and be considered rightly academic. So I have to present a voice rather than writing about a voice.”

In his lyrics, Carson explores the different ways racism manifests itself on campus and beyond. He also pays homage to black figures like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela as well as victims of police brutality.

He also features snippets of Malcolm X speeches and samples from artists like Aretha Franklin. He considers these like the sources one would usually quote in written dissertation, he told the campus outlet.

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Source: Black Voices | Taryn Finley