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Kendrick Lamar Wins Pulitzer Prize for ‘DAMN’

Kendrick+Lamar%27s+Pulitzer+makes+him+the+first+nonclassical+or+jazz+musician+to+win+the+prize.
Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer makes him the first nonclassical or jazz musician to win the prize.

Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer makes him the first nonclassical or jazz musician to win the prize.

Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer makes him the first nonclassical or jazz musician to win the prize.

Megan Smith, Reporter

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Kendrick Lamar, a rapper from Compton, CA, may have lost the Grammy for Album of the Year in January, but April 16, took home an even bigger prize. His album, ‘DAMN’, won the Pulitzer Prize for music. Since its introduction in 1943, Lamar is not only the first rapper to win the award but also the first non-classical or jazz musician.

To win the Pulitzer Prize for music, finalists are selected by a five-person jury and then taken to the board for winner selection. During this process, someone suggested Lamar’s ‘DAMN’, and there was “quite a lot of enthusiasm for it,” according to David Hajdu, one of the five jurors this year. There was some unease initially, as some of the jurors were not very familiar with hip-hop or rap music. After listening to the album, however, there was no dissent amongst the group.

However, many of those in contention for the Pulitzer were not as overjoyed when hearing the winner. Many scoffed at Lamar’s win, one classical composer calling it “insulting” on his Facebook page. Many others, including Caroline Shaw, a frequent collaborator with Kanye West and composer Ted Hearne, congratulated Lamar on the win. Hearne even went as far as calling Lamar “one of the greatest living American composers for sure.”

According to Dana, Canedy, administrator of the prizes, the board’s decision to bestow the award upon Lamar was unanimous, calling ‘DAMN’ a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” This chart-topping album features Rihanna and U2, along with production assistance from Mike WiLL Made-it and Sounwave.

While ‘DAMN’ tackles both personal and political issues like race, faith and burdens of fame, it also managed to be one of the most-played albums last year, topping the Billboard charts for eleven weeks and spending 25 weeks in the Top 10. Lamar has created an album filled with revolutionary anthems for young people, giving a voice to his generation and truly deserved this prize.

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Kendrick Lamar Wins Pulitzer Prize for ‘DAMN’