Is it wickedness? Is it weakness? You decide.
The 2018 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced Monday, highlighting some of the most important journalism from the last year. From The Washington Post uncovered the allegations of sexual harassment of teenage girls against Senate candidate Roy Moore. Rachel Kaadi Ghansah profiled Dylann Roof, the murderer from Charleston, South Carolina. Excellence in the field was on full display. But one award stood out to me (and everyone else) from yesterday’s announcement.
Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer.
Yes, the rapper, Kendrick Lamar, Kdot, Kung-Fu Kenny. The verbal surgeon from Compton, California. His 2017 album DAMN. became the first non-jazz or classical ever to win the Pulitzer Prize for music.
First, can we talk about the fact that no other music genre other than jazz or classical has won the Prize? I can’t say I’m shocked. I didn’t even know the award existed before yesterday.
Here are the winners since 2010:
- 2010: Jennifer Higdon, Violin Concerto
- 2011: Zhou Long, Madame White Snake, opera
- 2012: Kevin Puts, Silent Night: Opera in Two Acts
- 2013: Caroline Shaw, Partita for 8 Voices
- 2014: John Luther Adams, Become Ocean
- 2015: Julia Wolfe, Anthracite Fields
- 2016: Henry Threadgill, In for a Penny, In for a Pound
- 2017: Du Yun, Angel’s Bone
- 2018: Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
Do you recognize any of these artists? No, me either. And that doesn’t mean they aren’t incredibly talented. I’m sure they all are. And maybe I’m just outing myself as an uncultured swine.
“John Luther Adams’ ‘Become Ocean’ is FIRE, Brooks.”
Maybe you’re right. Maybe I need to appreciate the work of these well-deserving, but lesser-known artists. And I know some have lamented Kendrick’s win takes away exposure from another artist. It does. Or that it’s a sign that mere popularity as a measure of success has seeped into the Pulitzer board.
Jon Pareles, chief pop music critic at the The New York Times argued that this change is not just based on popularity – though DAMN. is indeed very popular – but on the fact that DAMN. is really, really good. I tend to agree with him. Kendrick’s fourth studio album is a complex, introspective, far-reaching, powerful commentary on the component parts of a human being. Both physical and metaphysical.
BLOOD. DNA. FEEL. LOYALTY. PRIDE. HUMBLE. LUST. LOVE. FEAR. GOD.
Kendrick winning is long overdue.
Next year, I’m sure another stunning violin concerto will win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, but this year, this year hip-hop won. Let’s savor it.
(Photo credit: grammy.com)