On Monday, Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy, who is also a Pulitzer winner in journalism, announced that Kendrick Lamar had won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in music.
The rap phenomenon has captivated crowds with his immense storytelling talent through his verse. Now, he has become not only the first rap artist but also the first non-jazz and non-classical musician to win a Pulitzer Prize since the Pulitzer board began considering music in 1943.
Released in April 2017, Lamar’s fourth studio album, Damn., captures the core of what life was like for Lamar as he grew up defending himself from his surroundings. Throughout the album, he raps ruthlessly and passionately, making listeners question if he even takes a breath between verses. In conjunction with Lamar’s rapping, strong beats and mesmeric rhythms permeate the music.
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The Pulitzer jurors declared 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.”
Comprising music scholars, critics, composers, and musicians, the jury takes the selection process seriously, reported Canedy in an interview with Billboard.
Even though the board’s selection meeting is held over a two-day period, the jurors are listening to music throughout the summer and fall prior to deliberating with each other.
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“You’d be amazed if you watched these juries at work. They take seriously every bit of work they consider,” Canedy said. “In this case, they were considering a piece of music they felt had hip-hop influences, and [they questioned], ‘Well if we’re considering a piece of music that has hip-hop influences, why aren’t we considering hip-hop?’ ”
During the process, another juror recommended Lamar’s Damn. for consideration.
“Right then, they decided to listen to the entire album and decided, ‘This is it,’ ” Canedy said.