ShareThis Page
Music

Commercial and critical darling Kendrick Lamar wins Pulitzer

| Monday, April 16, 2018, 5:24 p.m.
Kendrick Lamar receives the Grammy for the Best Rap Album for 'DAMN' during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards show in New York. Lamar was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music for DAMN on April 18, 2016, making it the first hip-hop album to receive the prestigious prize.
AFP/Getty Images
Kendrick Lamar receives the Grammy for the Best Rap Album for 'DAMN' during the 60th Annual Grammy Awards show in New York. Lamar was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music for DAMN on April 18, 2016, making it the first hip-hop album to receive the prestigious prize.

NEW YORK — Kendrick Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for music, making history as the first non-classical or jazz artist to win the prestigious prize.

The revered rapper is also the most commercially successful musician to receive the award, usually reserved for critically acclaimed classical acts who don't live on the pop charts.

The 30-year-old won the prize for "DAMN.," his raw and powerful Grammy-winning album. The Pulitzer board said Monday the album is a "virtuosic song collection" and said it captures "the modern African American life." He will win $15,000.

Lamar has been 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 Pulitzer board has awarded special honors to Bob 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. In 1997, Wynton Marsalis became the first jazz act to win the Pulitzer Prize for music.

That makes Lamar's win that much more important: His platinum-selling major-label albums — "good kid, m.A.A.d city," ''To Pimp a Butterfly" and "DAMN." — became works of art, with Lamar writing songs about blackness, street life, police brutality, perseverance, survival and self-worth. His piercing and sharp raps helped him become the voice of the generation, and easily ascend as the leader in hip-hop and cross over to audiences outside of rap, from rock to pop to jazz. He's also been a dominator on the charts, having achieved two dozen Top 40 hits, including a No. 1 success with "Humble," and he has even collaborated with the likes of U2, Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons, Rihanna and Beyonce.

His music, with songs such as "Alright" and "The Blacker the Berry," have become anthems in the wake of high-profile police shootings of minorities as the conversation about race relations dominates news headlines. He brought of dose of seriousness to the 2015 BET Awards, rapping on top of a police car with a large American flag waving behind him. At the 2016 Grammys, during his visual-stunning, show-stopping performance, he appeared beaten, in handcuffs, with chains around his hands and bruises on his eyes as he delivered powerful lyrics to the audience.

Lamar's musical success helped him win 12 Grammy Awards, though all three of his major-label albums have lost in the top category — album of the year. Each loss has been criticized by the music community, launching the conversation about how the Recording Academy might be out of touch. "DAMN." lost album of the year to Bruno Mars' "24K Magic" in January.

The rapper, born in Compton, Calif., was hand-picked by "Black Panther" director Ryan Coogler to curate an album to accompany the ubiquitously successful film, giving Lamar yet again another No. 1 effort and highly praised project.

"DAMN.," released on April 14, 2017, won five Grammys, including best rap album, and the album topped several year-end lists by critics, including NPR, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, BBC News, Complex and Vulture.

Finalists for the Pulitzer Prize in music were Michael Gilbertson's "Quartet," which debuted last February at Carnegie Hall, and Ted Hearne's "Sound from the Bench," a 35-minute cantata released last March.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me