Kendrick Lamar has once again made history, last month the rapper was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his album, DAMN. This was all after him losing the Grammy for Album of the Year to Bruno Mars 24KMagic. This is the first time in 75 years a non-classical/jazz musician has won the award. Lamar, 30, took the main scene in 2012 when he released Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Since then, the Compton-raised artist has been non-stop in spreading his message through music. The message is clear and relevant. While most artists seek to produce music that satisfies the taste of their consumer, he is not concerned with appealing to the requests of pop-culture he’s simply spreading “himself.”
The award comes as Hip-Hop becomes more and more accepted by main stream pop-culture. Not only does it offer credibility to the genre, but to all the other rap artists who dream of one day winning a Pulitzer. A juror of musicians made the decision including: Regina Carter, (violinist) Paul Cremo, (a director at The Metropolitan Opera) Farah Jasmine Griffin, (a professor of English, comparative literature, and African-American studies at Columbia University) David Hadju, (music critic for The Nation), and David Lang (a composer).
Following Lamar winning the Pulitzer, its clear that those close to him are eager to shun out the critics: Punch, head of Lamar’s label Top Dawg Entertainment, tweeted: “Pulitzer Prize winner Kdot from Compton. I [better] not ever hear one of you n—as speak with anything less than respect in your mouth for Kendrick Lamar. #TDE.”
DAMN was more of the hip-hop styled production that was seen in his earlier works, unlike To Pimp a Butterfly, which took on more jazz elements. However, one thing was clear, he didn’t make this project for himself it was for the people. He further questions the culture that he was raised to believe in, and questions himself, his motivations, and elements of his life he cannot control. He further tells about the struggles of being an African American from Compton and the very struggles those same people face.
Kendrick got some negative musical criticism for his sacrificing of “melody” for societal exposure in To Pimp a Butterfly, despite winning the Grammy for Album of the Year for the project. DAMN was more of the orthodox Hip-Hop instrumentally, but it took the same sociological themes from To Pimp a Butterfly and expanded them. This is what separates Kendrick from the rest of today’s rappers. His commitment to changing the world we live in, and not just appealing to the current fashion trends and drug culture is what many believe won him a Pulitzer.
While its definitely remarkable for a Hip-Hop artist to win this award, do not expect a plethora of rappers to emerge as Pulitzer winners in the coming years. There is only one Kendrick Lamar and he was gifted a Pulitzer not only because DAMN is a great musical piece, but because of the significance it presents as a sociological demonstration of the current world we live in.