Kendrick Lamar wins Pulitzer for music, makes history
Kendrick Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his DAMN album – and made history as the first rapper to win the prestigious prize in its 75-year history.
Usually the US$15,000 prize goes to classical and jazz artists who seldom, if ever, grace the pop charts.
DAMN was up against conductor and pianist Michael Gilbertson’s Quartet and singer and brand leader Ted Hearne’s 35-minute cantata Sound From The Bench – both ground breakers in their own field.
Previous Pulitzer winners have been Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Wynton Marsalis and Hank Williams
12 x Grammy winner Lamar is the most commercially successful of the prize winners to date.
DAMN, like the earlier To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) and untitled unmastered (2016) topped the US charts. It was the fastest selling album in 2017 in America.
The Pulitzer board called the 5 x Grammy winning DAMN a “virtuosic song collection” which captures “the modern African American life”.
The Compton-born 30-year old’s songs about his black identity, street life, police brutality, domestic violence, personal empowerment, survival and self-worth – with soundtrack of hip hop, African, jazz, soul and spoken word – have made him an important and highly revered voice of minorities.
At the 2015 BET black music awards, K. Dot performed on top of a police car to a backdrop of the American flag.
At the 2016 Grammys he appeared made up with bruises around his eyes and his hands manacled.
He was also picked by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler to put together the movie’s soundtrack – another critical and commercial hit.
Pulitzer Prize administrator Dana Canedy wasn’t sure why it’s taken so long for a commercial record to win the honour.
“The important thing about this is the jury and the board just decided that the album is a word of vernacular avant-garde,” she told Billboard.
“It’s a dense and sophisticated collage of hybrid sounds, polyrhythms, layered under what we would probably consider pulsing kinetic text.
“The brilliance of the music is what’s shone through.”