Kendrick Lamar becomes first rapper to win Pulitzer prize
California rapper Kendrick Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize for music on Monday for his album DAMN., organisers announced.
Lamar, 30, is the first rapper to win the prestigious award. The Pulitzer follows the five Grammy awards won by Lamar in January for the album.
Previous Pulitzer music winners include jazz musicians Wynton Marsalis and Ornette Coleman.
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 Pulitzers, the most prestigious honours in American journalism and the arts, have been awarded since 1917. Lamar’s Pulitzer win marked a significant departure as previous honorees have been drawn from the worlds of classical music and jazz.
The Pulitzer board on Monday hailed DAMN., which was released in April 2017, 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”.
Lamar is from the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, the home of hip-hop pioneers NWA.
The decision, which drew praise and surprise online, quickly overshadowed other arts winners, including Andrew Sean Greer’s win in the fiction category.
Greer’s novel Less tells the comic story about the misbegotten adventures of a middle-aged novelist. It was widely praised as poignant and funny and was ranked among the year’s best by The Washington Post, which called it an “elegantly” told story of a man who “loses everything: his lover, his suitcase, his beard, his dignity”.
The drama prize went to Martyna Majok Cost of Living, a drama featuring four characters, two of them disabled. Caroline Fraser’s work on author Laura Ingalls Wilder, Prairie Fires, won for biography. Jack E Davis’ The Gulf: The Making Of An American Sea won for history, while the general nonfiction prize went to James Forman Jr’s Locking Up Our Own: Crime And Punishment In Black America.