A.D. Carson dared to rap his Ph.D. dissertation, and it went viral

Ama Nunoo March 17, 2021
A.D Carson dared to be different with his PhD dissertation and it paid off. Photo: Clemson News

Most dissertations are written. One doctoral student at Clemson University broke the norm during his doctoral studies. A.D Carson wrote a 34-track rap album instead and went viral on YouTube along with being called a doctor after his successful unconventional defense.

You can call it his debut rap album which has the right title to go with it; “Owning My Masters: The Rhetorics of Rhymes and Revolutions.”

The research work or album which delves into topics such as justice, economics, language, identity, history, and citizenship in its unique way took more than three years to produce.

Two of Carson’s childhood friends from Illinois — Blake E. Wallace and Marcus Fitzgerald — helped him with the production. Surprisingly, many people could resonate with the message of the songs as they garnered thousands of views on YouTube and over 50,000 Soundcloud streams and downloads with even more interactions on Facebook.

Others felt Carson chose to rap his dissertation as a form of rebellion or probably did not take his work seriously. On the contrary, Carson said it was somewhat of a continuum of his undergrad and master’s thesis because they had both been on the music he was making.

This was the first time such a dissertation was presented to Clemson’s rhetorics, communication, and information design program, and the lecturers were so welcoming of the idea and the innovation that came with Carson’s presentation.

According to Clemson News, Chenjerai Kumanyika, one of Carson’s professors and supervisor, was a former Hip-Hop musician who helped him build enough academic premise for his work.

“The central thesis of my dissertation is: Are certain voices treated differently?” said Carson in February 2017. “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.”

It is not that Carson wanted an easy route out that he chose to rap his 200-page dissertation. In an actual sense, he did double work, having to write everything down before hitting his make-shift studio in an apartment near the school.

“All of the music is written beforehand. This is not me avoiding writing. It’s me writing and doing more,” Carson said. “There’s no point in getting all the way through the Ph.D. program and then to the dissertation and not doing it the way that I feel most natural.”

According to him, this way of doing his work was the best way to merge all the things he likes — writing, speaking, academic engagements, participating in campus protests and rallies — and presenting them all in his work through rap.

“I don’t want it to be something that just kind of sits up on a shelf and nobody reads it. I want people to engage with it. I want people to respond to it and hopefully be moved by it,” Carson said.

He expressed gratitude to his school and department for taking the leap of faith and trusting him to explore his creativity. In 2017, Carson nailed the thesis presentation to the admiration of all and a standing ovation from his professors and the audience, rightfully earning the title doctor, Wyff4 reported. In July 2017, it was announced that Carson will begin teaching at the University of Virginia as Assistant Professor of Hip-Hop and the Global South.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: March 17, 2021


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