Here is another proof that Kendrick Lamar is one of the most important voices in his generation of rappers: He just won a Pulitzer.
On Monday, April 16, the 30-year-old was handed the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his critically acclaimed album DAMN.
The Torch-Bearer Of Rap
DAMN. has received both commercial and critical success. It was hailed by music critics as one of the best albums in the past year and won several awards including the Best Album of the Year from the BET and Best Rao Album from this year's Grammys.
The 14-track LP also reached the top spot of the Billboard 200 last May.
This week, it made history by becoming the first rap album to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
"[DAMN. 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," said the awards board on the Pulitzer website.
The Pulitzer Prize for Music has been populated with jazz and classical musicians since its iteration in 1943. The first ever artist to win the award was William Schuman for Secular Cantata No. 2: A Free Song.
As The Guardian noted, the award has not been handed to a single American pop artist throughout its seven decades of existence. The board did recognize the contribution of Bob Dylan in the music industry, but he was given an additional citation in 2008.
This makes Lamar's win even more significant.
Congratulations to @kendricklamar, @dangerookipawaa and @Interscope! #Pulitzer pic.twitter.com/fFQBYnoW9F — The Pulitzer Prizes (@PulitzerPrizes) April 16, 2018
In an interview with Billboard, Dana Canedy, the Pulitzer Prize Administrator, explained that to determine a winner, the jury has to make a recommendation, which will be considered by the board. She also revealed that the jury was initially considering and debating for or against another piece of music that had hip-hop influences.
"Well if we're considering a piece of music that has hip-hop influences, why aren't we considering hip-hop?" somebody said, suggesting that the board listened to DAMN.
They unanimously agreed that the album is the clear winner.
"The important thing about this is the jury and the board just decided that the album is a word of vernacular avant-garde," she explained. " 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."
The Internet Celebrates
Fans of the rapper have celebrated Lamar's unexpected but well-deserved win. Television host Ellen DeGeneres is one of the many celebrities who congratulated the California native.
.@KendrickLamar is the first person to win a #Pulitzer for rap. Yep. That feels about right. Incredible. — Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 17, 2018
Fellow rapper Common also went on Twitter to celebrate the incredible win.
Amazing! Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize for his album DAMN today. He is officially the first non-classical or jazz artist to win the Pulitzer Prize in music! pic.twitter.com/P0Iz6AJvQ1 — COMMON (@common) April 17, 2018
Author Clint Smith pointed out the several major African-American wins in the past few months.
Beyoncé had Coachella renamed after her, Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize, & Black Panther has made more money than Titanic. Black history month is every month, every day, every year, all the time. — Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) April 16, 2018
Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer and both Drake and J Cole announced new albums coming this summer. We’re looking at you now Kanye — Tamara Dhia (@tamaradhia) April 17, 2018
I feel good about a world in which Kendrick Lamar has a Pulitzer Prize. — Alex Wagner (@alexwagner) April 17, 2018
Drake announced an album. J. Cole announced an album. Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer. It’s Chance The Rapper’s birthday. It’s the 15-year anniversary of Michael Jordan’s last NBA game. And D-Wade had 21 points in the first half of a playoff game at 36. It’s been quite the day. — Aaron Dodson (@aardodson) April 17, 2018
Huge congrats to Kendrick Lamar on winning the Pulitzer Prize in music. He’s the first non classical/jazz artist to do so. Times are changing #KendrickLamar #Pulitzer — Sacha Lord (@Sacha_whp) April 17, 2018