Kendrick Lamar and his 2017 album DAMN. just made history after being awarded a Pulitzer Prize in music.
Not only is Lamar the first rapper to ever be awarded ever since the Pulitzer Prize expanded to music in 1943, but he is also the first winner who was not a jazz or classical musician.
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Dana Canedy, the administrator of the prizes, said in an interview that, “The time was right. 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.
She specifically added about Lamar, “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.”
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Lamar has not commented publicly about his newest honor. However, Terrence Henderson, better known as Punch, who is the president of Top Dawg Entertainment, tweeted that no one “should speak less than respect in your mouth for Kendrick Lamar.”
According to Canedy, the decision to award the prize to Lamar unanimous. The board thought the album was “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”
Lamar’s albums though showcase his lyrical flow, also have all a serious undertone. Many of his songs highlight issues he has faced, such as racism, life on the streets, self-love, police brutality and survival. Rapping about these topics made him a voice for the current generation, it also makes him one of the leaders in modern hip-hop. His songs such as “Alright” and “The Blacker the Berry” have become anthems in a time of of high-profile police shootings of minorities, they sparked conversation about race relations that society faces.
His musical success has earned him 12 Grammy awards, but never in the top category, Album of the Year. Just this last year, DAMN. lost Album of the Year to Bruno Mars’s 24k Magic. The music community had always criticized Lamar’s Album of the Year snubs, believing that he had deserved the award over the artists he had lost to.
However, despite losing Album of Year, DAMN. still won five Grammys for its featured songs “LOYALTY. featuring Rihanna” and “HUMBLE.”
Lamar was up against Michael Gilbertson’s “Quartet,” which debuted at Carnegie Hall and Ted Hearne’s “Sound from the Bench,” a 35-minute cantata.