When Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN” was announced as the winner for Pulitzer Prize for Music, there was a virtual roar of excitement on the internet as many people referred to the feat as a defining moment for modern hip-hop. General opinion from music critics and reviewers is that Mr. Lamar’s win is such a big deal because it means hip-hop – especially rap music – has finally come to be appreciated in the world of musical composition.
In late January, Mr. Lamar lost the Grammy award for album of the year to Bruno Mars. “DAMN” is Mr. Lamar’s fourth LP and his third straight to be nominated but ultimately fall short of the trophy which is considered to be the top prize in popular music.
On Monday, April 16, Mr. Lamar was awarded the more elusive, honour of becoming the first rapper to have a Pulitzer Prize in Music. Lamar is not only the first rapper to win the award since the Pulitzers expanded to music in 1943, but he is also the first winner who is not a classical or jazz musician.
Dana Canedy, the administrator of the prizes, said in an interview after the winners were announced:
“We are very proud of this selection. It means that the jury and the board judging system worked as it’s supposed to — the best work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. It shines a light on hip-hop in a completely different way. This is a big moment for hip-hop music and a big moment for the Pulitzers.”
In a time when rap music has become supersaturated to fit into a market for weak lyrics and trap beats, Sirius XM radio host, Clay Cane, says “Lamar is socially resonant and musically gifted. He is the voice of this generation, and the first hip-hop artist to win the music Pulitzer”.
The radio host who is also author of “Live Through This: Surviving the Intersections of Sexuality, God and Race” said of Mr. Lamar’s album, “DAMN” in a CNN Edition article:
“”DAMN” is a punch in the gut, a wake-up call to people who are in intellectual comas. The Pulitzer honor goes to Lamar, who is 29, but it signifies so much more: blackness and the revolutionary spirit, not respectability politics, and you would have to be soulless to not feel and hear him. He is the soundtrack of youth culture today and that is why the country should be listening.”
According to the Pulitzer board, the album is “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.’’
Kendrick Lamar will win $15,000.
‘‘DAMN.,’’ released in April 2017, won five Grammys, including best rap album, and the album topped several year-end lists by critics, including NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, BBC News, Complex, and Vulture.
Finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in music were Michael Gilbertson’s ‘‘Quartet,’’ which debuted last February at Carnegie Hall, and Ted Hearne’s ‘‘Sound from the Bench,’’ a 35-minute cantata released last March.
Du Yun, who won the music Pulitzer last year for her opera ‘‘Angel’s Bone,’’ said she was thrilled about Lamar’s win. Her statement reads in part:
‘‘’To Pimp a Butterfly’ got my blood pumping and the video for ‘DNA.’ made me want to make the music I’m making now. Freedom of expression is the height of art, and Kendrick Lamar is the embodiment of that freedom.’’
Kendrick Lamar is yet to comment on receiving the award but Terrence Henderson, a record executive from Mr. Lamar’s label, Top Dawg Entertainment, acknowledged the achievement on Twitter, writing that from now on, no one should “speak with anything less than respect in your mouth for Kendrick Lamar.”