American superstar rapper, Kendrick Lamar, whose fourth album ‘DAMN’ reached double-platinum sales status, won the Pulitzer Prize for Music with the album, which Pulitzer board called “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African American life.”
With this, Kendrick Lamar became the first non-classical or jazz artist to receive the honour, with the album which was nominated for Album of the Year and won Best Rap Album at this year’s Grammy awards ceremony.
Lamar was lauded for his deep lyrical content, politically charged live performances, and his profound mix of hip-hop, spoken word, jazz, soul, funk, poetry and African sounds. Since emerging on the music scene with the 2011 album Section. 80, he has achieved the perfect mix of commercial appeal and critical respect.
The rapper who spoke with to Rolling Stone about his creative mindset behind DAMN in August 2017, said
“The initial goal was to make a hybrid of my first two commercial albums.
“That was our total focus, how to do that sonically, lyrically, through melody – and it came out exactly how I heard it in my head. … It’s all pieces of me. My musicality has been driving me since I was four years old. It’s just pieces of me, man, and how I execute it is the ultimate challenge. Going from To Pimp a Butterfly to DAMN., that shit could have crashed and burned if it wasn’t executed right. So I had to be real careful on my subject matter and how I weave in and out of the topics, where it still organically feels like me.”
Last year, the Nobel Prize in Literature also crossed over into mainstream pop music, awarding their prestigious medal to Bob Dylan. The Pulitzer board awarded special honours to Dylan, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Hank Williams, but a popular figure like Lamar has never won the prize for music.
Bob Dylan received a $900,000 prize during a small private ceremony in Stockholm, after submitting his speech to the Swedish Academy. In 1997, Wynton Marsalis became the first jazz act to win the Pulitzer Prize for music.