Prominent US rapper Kendrick Lamar has given hip-hop an unexpected moment of institutional critical acclaim, taking out the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his 2017 album ‘DAMN.’.
“DAMN.,” Lamar’s third album, topped the Billboard 200 album charts for three weeks on its release last year.
DAMN. was awarded because the Pulitzer board characterized it 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.”
“The time was right. We are very proud of this selection. It means that the jury and the board judging system worked as it’s supposed to — the best work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. It shines a light on hip-hop in a completely different way. This is a big moment for hip-hop music and a big moment for the Pulitzers.”
The Pulitzers, particularly the music category, have long focused on more traditional forms of artistic expression.
Rap is now officially the biggest music genre in the United States after surpassing rock in 2017.
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 prize was first awarded in the 1940s but it took until 1997 for a jazz winner to come along — Wynton Marsalis for his orotorio Blood on the Fields.
The previous four winners were classical or operatic, and this year Lamar beat out a string quartet work and a “five-movement cantata for chamber choir, electric guitar and percussion”.