Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. has just won the Pulitzer Prize, and people are hailing it as a watershed moment for rap.
DAMN. — whose tracks wax philosophic on everything from love and lust to religion to the black experience — isn’t just the first rap album to win the prize. It’s the first album that to receive the honour that isn’t classical or jazz.
— The Pulitzer Prizes (@PulitzerPrizes) April 16, 2018
Dana Canedy, the Pulitzer Administrator, told Billboard that when the board found itself considering giving the prize to albums that referenced hip hop, they realized they should be looking at hip hop albums themselves.
“In this case, I don’t know specifically what the piece was, but in this case they were considering a piece of music they felt had hip-hop influences and said, “Well if we’re considering a piece of music that has hip-hop influences, why aren’t we considering hip-hop?” And someone said, “That’s exactly what we should do.” And then someone said, “We should be considering Kendrick Lamar”
The arts establishment has rarely seen rap has as high art, but this win — which was unanimous amongst the board — shows that opinions may be changing. The Pulitzers have described DAMN. as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”
And the Internet (generally in fewer words) agrees.
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) April 17, 2018
YO! The music prize though. What an inspired choice.
— roxane gay (@rgay) April 16, 2018
— Reese Witherspoon (@RWitherspoon) April 16, 2018
— Lydia Polgreen (@lpolgreen) April 19, 2018
can kendrick get the PEGOT
— Steve Kandell (@SteveKandell) April 16, 2018
Lamar himself, as usual, is staying humble about the achievement. The prolific lyricist hasn’t even tweeted since he received the prize.
Then again, maybe he doesn’t need to. His album title says it all.