In what could only be considered historical, Kendrick Lamar just won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for his album DAMN. The Pulitzer for music is overwhelmingly homogenous not only in the genres it recognizes but also, in the race and gender of the musicians it honours. Until 1983, no woman had ever won the award and no African American won until 1996.
The Pulitzer for music was first awarded in 1943. Generally, it’s always gone to contemporary and classical music. In the list of previous winners, there are many operas and symphonies. This is what makes the win for Lamar all the more special. He is a hip-hop artist and the album is also a hip-hop one which makes it the first time that a classical or jazz symphony hasn’t one. The first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer was Wynton Marsalis and that to not before 1997.
The fact that Kendrick won the prize actually acts as vindication for the reforms that the Pulitzer Prize Board enacted between 1996 and 2004. These changes allowed it to gradually open up its eligibility to music outside of what was considered “larger forms”. Which means, it allowed artists and music outside the boundaries of contemporary and classical to be considered.
While DAMN. may not have won a Grammy for album of the year, it’s definitely gone down in history for winning the Pulitzer. It’s safe to say that this is now an iconic album. When announcing the prize, the Pulitzer Board said it best;
It is a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.
Or to summarize, it’s DAMN. fricking good!
Do you like Kendrick Lamar’s album? Let us know what your favourite song is, in the comments below.
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