Revered hip-hop and rap artist Kendrick Lamar has been awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his album DAMN. This is the first time a non-classical or jazz artist has won the award since its inception in 1943.
DAMN, released in 2017, was met with widespread critical acclaim due to its powerful content that referenced police brutality; life as an African-American in the USA today; love, lust and Lamar’s own family life in Compton, California. DAMN became Lamar’s third album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 chart.
On their website, Pulitzer described the album 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 album is in stark contrast to last year’s winner, an operatic work by Chinese-born composer Du Yun.
The release of DAMN last April cemented Lamar’s position as one of the leading rap artists of his generation, first indicated by the success of his third album To Pimp a Butterfly, which won five Grammy awards. His work covers subjects such as racism (XXX), alcoholism (Swimming Pools (Drank)) and identity (DNA), and remains commercially successful, indicating that modern fans of rap music are hungry for something deeper.
Ireland showed their love for Lamar and DAMN at his most recent show in the 3 Arena in February. On the morning of the sold-out concert, a mural of the rapper by Dublin street artist collective Subset appeared on Aungier Street in the city centre, which Lamar seemed pleased by. “I heard y’all painted a picture of me on a wall,” he said at the show. “No one’s ever done that before.”
Kendrick Lamar returns to Ireland in August as a headline act at this year’s Electric Picnic festival. With a Pulitzer Prize added to his list of achievements, we imagine the crowd will be massive.