Kendrick Lamar makes history with Pulitzer win
April 18, 2018 12:30 pm
Kendrick Lamar may have lost out on the best album Grammy for his acclaimed album Damn, but the hip-hop artist’s landmark album has just landed a far more esteemed prize: a Pulitzer.
In the process the revered Compton-born rapper made history, becoming the first musician outside of classical or jazz to receive the honour.
In awarding the prize, the committee called the album “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”
The prize is seen as a further solidification of hip-hop’s place in the musical and academic echelons usually reserved for classical and jazz composition, and a beacon for future creators.
“There’s something to be said that a young man from Compton, who was raised in a low-income community, has been able to be true to his mode of expression,” Raj Frazier, an associate professor at the University of Southern California and director of the Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg, told the L.A. Times.
“The fact that his music is being listened to and valued among the Pulitzer members — that it’s being thought of in relation to those award winners of generations prior to him — means he’ll be a name and a creator who’s also referred to for those who are assessed and valued in the future.”
It’s also being regarded as a powerful political statement in a time when racist sentiments are being fanned across the United States and around the world.
The importance was not lost on Lamar fans, many of whom took to social media to praise the win.
“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,” said Dana Canedy, the administrator of the prizes, in an interview after the winners were announced. Canedy added that the decision was unanimous.
“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.”
The Pulitzer Prize for Music was reserved entirely for classical artists until 1996, when, after fierce internal debate, the board announced a change to the criteria “so as to attract the best of a wider range of American music.” The following year, Wynton Marsalis became the first jazz artist to win a Pulitzer, for Blood in the Fields, his three-hour oratorio about slavery.
Since then, jazz artists Ornette Coleman and Henry Threadgill have been the only other non-classical musicians to receive the honour, and Bob Dylan and Hank Williams were each given an “additional citation.”
Lamar has yet to comment publicly on the win, but his label tweeted “Pulitzer Prize winner Kdot from Compton. I [better] not ever hear one of you n----- speak with anything less than respect in your mouth for Kendrick Lamar. #TDE.”