Kendrick Lamar First Rapper to Win Pulitzer Prize

Christy Allyn   Editor in Chief

Platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his album “DAMN.” He is the first rapper, and first artist outside of classical or jazz, to win a Pulitzer. The Pulitzer Board called the album “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.” won five Grammy Awards and Lamar has received much praise. Matthew Trammell of Pitchfork said “Storytelling has been Lamar’s greatest skill and most primary mission, to put in (lots of) words what it’s like to grow up as he did – to articulate, in human terms, the intimate specifics of daily self-defense from your surroundings. Somehow, he’s gotten better.” Andy Kellman of All Music Guide says Lamar is “one of the rare artists who has achieved critical and commercial success while earning the respect and support of those who inspired him.”
Other finalists for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in music were “Quartet” by Michael Gilbertson and “Sound from the Bench” by Ted Hearne. “Quartet” was a “masterwork in a traditional format, the string quartet,” according the the Pulitzer Board, and premiered on February 2, 2017 at Carnegie Hall. “Sound from the Bench,” a five-movement cantata for chamber choir, electric guitar, and percussion, was released on March 24, 2017. According the Pulitzer Board it “raises oblique questions about the crosscurrents of power through excerpts from sources as diverse as Supreme Court Rulings and ventriloquism textbooks.”
Lamar’s win was highly controversial; as the first non-classical or jazz winner of the Pulitzer Prize, it rewrote the canon of prestigious music composers.
The decision was made by five jurors – Regina Carter, a violinist; Paul Cremo, a director at the Metropolitan Opera; Farah Jasmine Griffin, a professor of comparative literature, English, and African-American studies at Columbia University; David Hadju, music critic for The Nation; and David Lang, a composer.
The win comes at a time of celebration for blackness, with the popularity of “Black Panther,” which Lamar soundtracked, and Beychella.

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