Kizzie Frank - Art & Entertinment Editor
Kendrick Lamar, won a Pulitzer Prize for his 2017 album "Damn". Kendrick stood against Michael Gilbertson for "Quartet" and Ted Hearne for "Sound from the Bench". Kendrick’s win today is a mark in the history books as the first rap album to win the award. Listen to the album (here).
No R&B or hip hop album has touched the category for Pulitzer, but why is that? My first thought was that rap/hip-hop was not considered prestigious or “distinguished” enough to be honored as such, but that is not necessarily true. In the past, the music category has been typically been dominated by classical pieces such as, Second Concerto for Orchestra, by Steven Stucky (Theodore Presser Company) in 2005 and Angel’s Bone, by Du Yun in 2017.
You would first need to know what the Pulitzer Prize is for. According to Pulitzer.org: “For distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year."
Anyone who wins the prize, must first enter to win. Maybe Kendrick was the first rap artist to do submit an entry? Perhaps the “music jury” was not as diverse as it is now. Either way, this year, Pulitzer.org describes Kendrick’s album as:
Recording released on April 14, 2017, a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life. – Pulitzer Prize.Org
What is not clear is whether or not other rap/ hip-hop artists have ever thought to enter to win the award and there is no way to my knowledge that allows you to see all the entries. Kendrick, however was not the first African-American to be awarded a Pulitzer Prize. In 1950 Gwendolyn Brooks from the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.
What is clear is this win will be a wake up call for other artist in Kendrick's genre and opens the door for younger people of color to shoot their shot for "unlikely" achievements. This news comes right after #Beychella... Coachella, where Beyonce gave a two hour performance as the first black woman to headline the music festival. What a great time for music! What a great time for the culture.