Lamar makes Pulitzer history
The artist is the first rapper to win in the music category
Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer prize for music yesterday, making history as the first nonclassical or jazz artist to win the prestigious prize.
The revered rapper also is the most commercially successful musician to receive the award, which is 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 the album was “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern AfricanAmerican life”.
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.
The Pulitzer board has awarded special honours to Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Hank Williams, but a popular figure such as Lamar has never won the prize for music. In 1997, Wynton Marsalis became the first jazz act to win the Pulitzer for music.
Lamar’s win is a sign that America’s cultural institutions are starting to fully recognise hip-hop as an art form. This year’s Grammy Awards, for example, nodded to hip-hop’s clout in the diversity of its nominations.
Yet Lamar’s widely praised album Damn did not win the award for album of the year, the institution’s highest honour.
Elsewhere, The New York Times shared the Pulitzer prize for public service with the New Yorker for articles that uncovered allegations of sexual harassment by movie producer Harvey Weinstein and others, coverage that helped reset the national conversation about the treatment of women.
The Times was awarded a total of three Pulitzer prizes, and the Reuters news agency won two.
The Times shared a national reporting prize with The Washington Post for coverage of Russia’s role in influencing the 2016 US election and its connections with the campaign of President Donald Trump. The Times also won an award for editorial cartooning.
The Post also won for investigative journalism for detailing decades-old allegations of sexual predation against underage girls by Roy Moore, a Republican candidate for the Senate in Alabama.
In fiction, the award was given to Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. The drama prize went to Martyna Majok for Cost of Living. Caroline Fraser’s work on author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Prairie Fires, won for biography. James Forman Jr’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America won for general nonfiction. Jack E. Davis’s The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea won the history prize and Frank Bidart’s Half-Light was the poetry winner.
Kendrick Lamar at the Grammy awards this year