Kendrick Lamar Wins Pulitzer for Damn
On Monday, April 16th, Kendrick Lamar was announced as the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for music for his hip hop album Damn. Lamar made history as the first hip-hop artist to win this prestigious award that previously only graced jazz or classical works.
The Pulitzer Prize, an award created by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer in 1917, celebrates excellence in journalism, literature and musical composition. Other winners include The New York Times and The New Yorker for their exposing pieces about sexual harassment in Hollywood that sparked an international campaign against sexual harassment; their Pulitzer Prize was for Public Service. In Photojournalist, Ryan Kelly was awarded for his photographs of the Charlottesville protests. The Pulitzer Prize is about rewarding those who spread an important message and celebrating the fourth estate; it awards works that has changed paradigms, raised awareness, and brought incredible quality of work to the public.
Lamar’s win marks a historic moment for the art and industry of hip-hop. Many of the major awards’ committees, like those of the Oscars and the Grammys, have been trying to diversify their nominees and winners, and, unlike some, the Pulitzer succeeded.
In an interview with the New York Times about the results, Dana Canedy, Pulitzer Prize administrator, said, “It means that the jury and the board judging system worked as it’s supposed to — the best work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.”
His songs cover “thorny issues both personal and political, including race, faith and the burdens of commercial success” (New York Times). He speaks to the daily burdens of being black in America and the added racial tensions created by the sitting presidents rhetoric. He also personally attacks the biased reporting of Fox News. “Lamar’s work achieves something most reporters can’t: It speaks from the prerogative of black communities facing oppression and directly attacks the institutions responsible for their pain. (Huffpost) His messages, are “rooted in the moment and grounded in historical significance” (Huffpost) it was because of this, and that “Lamar is the closest thing popular music has to the voice of a generation” (The Federalist) that, according to Canedy, made it unanimous win.
In the past year in particular, the press at large has faced more criticism from the US government than it has for centuries. However, this year’s winners show the great importance of a free press and the unsilenceable nature of the American people.