California’s Kendrick Lamar on April 16 Monday became the first rapper to receive the Pulitzer Prize for music, one of the most prestigious arts awards in the United States. Lamar, 30, won for his 2017 album DAMN and was the first music winner in the 100-year history of the Pulitzer to come from outside of classical and jazz music.
Rap officially surpassed rock in 2017 as the biggest music genre in the US, and Lamar’s fusion of jazz, poetry and blues with social themes and love songs has made him one of the most innovative rappers of his generation.
The Pulitzer board hailed DAMN, released in April 2017, 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”.
DAMN, Lamar’s fourth album deals, with religion, love, personal struggles and racial politics. It topped the Billboard 200 chart for three weeks on its release and powered Lamar to five Grammy Awards in January this year.
But DAMN failed to win Album of the Year, in what was seen as a snub by music industry voters for the rap genre despite its popularity. Only two hip hop albums have ever that award: Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill in 1999 and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2004.
Lamar was born and raised in the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, home of hip hop pioneers NWA. He started making music at 16, and most recently produced the film soundtrack for Black Panther. He also performed the lead single Pray For Me with The Weeknd.
Previous Pulitzer music winners include jazz musicians Wynton Marsalis and Ornette Coleman. – Reuters