(Courtesy of Top Dawg Entertainment, Aftermath Entertainment and Interscope Records)
Thanks to his critically acclaimed album, DAMN., rapper Kendrick Lamar won the prestigious and elusive Pulitzer Prize for music, spotlighting a significant moment in hip-hop music. During its seventy-five-year existence, Lamar has become the first non-jazz/classical artist to win that honor.
On April 16, 2019, Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy announced the 2018 Pulitzer Prizes at Columbia University’s School of Journalism. For music, the Pulitzer was awarded to Kendrick Lamar’s fourth album, DAMN. The song collection won the prestigious award for “capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”
Here are 5 reasons why we should celebrate Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer win:
5) The Significance!
— The Pulitzer Prizes (@PulitzerPrizes) April 16, 2018
In an interview with NPR, Farah Jasmine Griffin, a professor specializing in African-American literature and music at Columbia University, was one of five jurors who settled on the winner among the music nominees. Griffin states, “I think it says something that, in this moment, amongst all the excellent music we listened to or literature we read, an august institution like the Pulitzer recognizes that included in that is something that they might not have considered before. So it’s important, I think, in an institution to change. It’s very important for hip-hop and very important for American popular culture and African-American culture but it’s also very important for the Pulitzer.”
4) He’s An Album Artist!
In an interview with Variety, Lamar explains why Damn. is a step forward as an album artist, “You don’t necessarily just hear the music — you see it. You hear the stories; you hear the interludes; you hear the hooks and how different things intertwine. I always carry some type of conceptual idea inside my music, whether it’s a big concept or it’s so subtle you can’t even tell until you get to 20 listens. It’s such a huge deal to this day, seeing if an artist can still pull it off.”
3) The Naysayers!
Of course, there are naysayers that claim this is the end of classical music. Have many times have you heard “this is the end of our civilization?” That’s why it’s important to say to listeners that they should broaden their scope, leave their comfort zone, and recognize a true musical genius when you see one.
2) What It Means To Me…
The rawness of DAMN comes from depicting a true picture, the good and bad, of black life. The burden of the provocative track, “Feel,” represents how minorities face oppression, while having the strength to strike back at the institution responsible for our pain.
As the album innovates with experimentation through melody and harmony, the rap songs describes systemic injustice, chronicles black struggle, and explores the theme of me vs. me. In my opinion, Lamar’s Pulitzer win proves that true excellence deserves attention from others and its passion is very difficult to ignore.
Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. is available in stores now.