Com­mer­cial and crit­i­cal dar­ling Ken­drick La­mar wins Pulitzer

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Kickoff - Pho­tos and text from wire ser­vices

NEWYORK » Ken­drick La­mar won the Pulitzer Prize for mu­sic Mon­day, 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 uni­fied by its ver­nac­u­lar au­then­tic­ity and rhyth­mic dy­namism that of­fers af­fect­ing vignettes cap­tur­ing the com­plex­ity of 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 col- lab­o­rated with the likes of U2, Tay­lor Swift, Imag­ine Dragons, Ri­hanna and Bey­once.

His mu­sic, with songs like “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 au- di­ence.

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, Cal­i­for­nia, 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.

PHOTO BY CHRIS PIZZELLO — IN­VI­SION — AP, FILE

In this file photo, mu­si­cian Ken­drick La­mar ar­rives at the MTV Video Mu­sic Awards in Inglewood On Mon­day La­mar won the Pulitzer Prize for mu­sic for his al­bum “Damn.”

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