I didn’t even know that a Pulitzer Prize existed for music, but there is– and Kendrick Lamar’s win means much more than just a prestigious award to add to his biography.
On April 16, 2018, Kendrick Lamar won perhaps his most groundbreaking award yet: the Pulitzer Prize for Music. The Pulitzer Prize was established in 1917, and it currently encompasses 21 categories mostly in journalism but also fiction and nonfiction writing. The Music Prize is arguably the category that deviates most from the others, and it was first awarded in 1943.
Previously, the Prize has only been awarded to classical and jazz musicians. Lamar is the first rapper to win the award.
The Pulitzer Prize Board’s decision to honor Lamar was unanimous. Can you believe that? I was so pleasantly surprised. The Board described Lamar’s 2017 album 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.”
There has been a movement in recent years of legitimatizing rap as not only a legitimate form of music, poetry, and art, but a culturally significant and essential cornerstone of modern American life. Kendrick Lamar has been the icon of such “conscious rap,” though the existence of all and any rap music should be more than enough to amaze us all in its unbreakable spirit.
Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize win is not only a landmark in hip hop history but also a huge stride in recognizing the immense artistic and cultural significance of hip hop in American society.
Now, if only the Grammys would do the same to give hip hop albums their long overdue credit… How ironic, they’re supposed to be insiders on the music industry! Album of the Year went to Bruno Mars, but that’s no matter. Kendrick’s got the Pulitzer now.