Kendrick Lamar, the first rapper to win a Pulitzer

The platinum-selling, Grammy-nominated rapper won the award for his 2017 album DAMN, which the award panel describes 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”.

The artist was picked for the award above Michael Gilbertson’s Quartet, which follows the more traditional format of the string quartet, and Ted Hearne’s Sound from the Bench, a work that mixes chamber choir music with more contemporary instrumental elements.

Last year the prize was awarded to the operatic work Angel’s Bone, by Du Yun.

Lamar’s label, Top Dawg Entertainment, acknowledged the win on Twitter — saying that they better not hear anyone “speak with anything less than respect in your mouth for Kendrick Lamar”.

According to the New York Times, David Hajdu, one of the music jurors this year, said that the group considered more than 100 compositions, including “some pieces of classical music that drew upon hip-hop as a resource.

This lead the panel to consider rap music as having “value on its own terms and not just as a resource for use in a field that is more broadly recognised by the institutional establishment as serious or legitimate,” he said.

The recognition comes on the heels of growing acceptance of the genre from sanctified cultural institutions over the past year, including Jay-Z becoming the first rapper to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

DAMN features artists like Rihanna and U2 and explores some of the themes of his highly-acclaimed 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly — which features the track Alright, a song that became a war cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Keep the powerful accountable

Subscribe for R30/mth for the first three months. Cancel anytime.

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.

Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

ANC North West committee speaks out against ‘manipulative’ leadership headed...

From submitting parallel lists to misleading the court, list committee chair Lorna Maloney makes serious claims against the North West ANC’s interim provincial committee

July protests take their toll as economy shrinks by 1.5%

The largest drops in the third quarter were in the agriculture sector, trade and manufacturing.

Mabuyane warns ANC provincial executive against another ‘festival of chairs’...

The ANC chair in the Eastern Cape, Oscar Mabuyane, urges PEC members to accept election outcomes and not devolve into the violence of the “festival of chairs”

Going back to the future of KwaZulu-Natal politics

The past is helpful in understanding the predatory and violent nature of political factionalism in the province. But it doesn’t answer the question of how to fix it.

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…