Kendrick Lamar’s album “DAMN” received the Pulitzer Prizes’ music award. It is the first time in history that a Pulitzer Prize is given to a hip-hop artist, or to any work outside of the classical precincts, and occasional jazz compositions.

The award was seen with rage and disagreement by others. The New York Times even published a discussion between Zachary Woolfe, their classical music editor, and Jon Pareles, the chief pop music critic. Both addressed shocking news.

Meanwhile, Chris Richards from The Washington Post called this situation as “blindingly golden” for the black pop culture – considering people link this award to the “Black Panther” record at the box office, to Beyonce’s historic moment at Coachella. Ira Madison from The Daily Beast called it an “Overdue recognition of black excellence.”

‘It is the right time’

Dana Canedy, Pulitzer administrator, claimed that “the time was right,” and that they were very proud of their selection. According to the administrator, this makes possible for the hip-hop music to have a light shining upon it – considering the complimented album did not win the Grammy this year, losing to Bruno Mars.

Canedy explained that it is a big moment for the hip-hop industry and the Pulitzers as well. It is still shocking everybody that the Pulitzer board would award Lamar, considering his industry did not.

Kendrick Lamar's winning opens discussion about Pulitzer Prize
Although this is the first time an African-American person receives a Pulitzer, it’s not the first time that Lamar is awarded after DAMN. Image credit: Getty

“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 Pulitzer board said about Kendrick’s album.

Some analysts claim that the fact that the board mentioned DAMN highlighted and captured the “complexity of the modern African-American life.” However, others consider that black musicians have been doing what Kendrick is being awarded for during decades.

Ira Madison analyzed the sentence said by Canedy and expressed:

“When Canedy said “the time was right” after she announced Lamar’s win, she wasn’t speaking as someone who had finally acknowledged the power of hip-hop in exploring dimensions of black life. It was only in July of last year that Canedy replaced Mike Pride as the administer of the Pulitzer Prizes, becoming the first woman and first African-American to hold the position. If it was about time for Lamar, then it was about time for Canedy as well — and for greater recognition of black excellence.”

A Pulitzer-deserving album

Zachary Woolfe, from the New York Times, explained that he had felt for a very long time that the Pulitzer’s mission was to spread lights on corners of music that are, otherwise, almost ignored by the broader culture. According to him, the prize acted as a reminder that artmaking exists beyond the Billboard charts.

Kendrick Lamar's winning opens discussion about Pulitzer Prize
People have well-received the news about DAMN. Image credit: AFP

He claims that even though “DAMN” deserves the award, it seems like the musical culture is being embodied by streaming services which allow only the most prominent artist to receive more and more – leaving everyone else with smaller honors. Woolfe claims that Mr. Lamar is among the artists that are meaningful, however, he does not like every aspect of the situation.

“The word ‘trending’ makes me instinctively recoil; as critics, you and I both want to direct people beyond popularity charts. But choosing ‘DAMN.’ wasn’t a capitulation to mere popularity. The album is a complex, varied, subtle, richly multilayered work, overflowing with ideas and by no means immediately ingratiating. You have to give it genuine attention and thought to get the most out of it, just as with any other Pulitzer-winning composition,” Pareles responded.

A unanimous approval for political art

Clay Cane, a Sirius XM radio host, wrote for CNN that political art, such as Lamar’s album, represents a significant protest more than ever. The host explained that the American life is being debased “courtesy of a charlatan posing as the leader of the free world.”

Kendrick Lamar's winning opens discussion about Pulitzer Prize
Some people believe that Lamar is doing what the black culture has been doing for decades. Image credit: Getty

On the other hand, Farah Jasmine Griffin, a Columbia professor, claimed that everyone would expect some resistance or disapproval against Lamar’s award – but was not the case. As the final decision made by the Pulitzer board was unanimous, the acceptance of it was shocking, the album was welcomed by everyone, just as the decision taken by the organization.

Griffin explained that it is an opportunity to have a real and serious conversation about art, about Kendrick Lamar’s work, and also about what makes music eligible for a Pulitzer award. She reminded of Duke Ellington’s being passed over for the Pulitzer in 1965, and declared that they were bringing history to the table, asking why not now?

Source: The New York Times