California Rapper Kendrick Lamar Awarded Pulitzer Prize for Music


California rapper Kendrick Lamar was awarded the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music, it was announced Monday.

It is the first time the prestigious honor went to musician not in the classical or jazz genres. Lamar was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his work on the 2017 album DAMN.

The 30-year-old Lamar is the most well-known and commercial musician to be awarded the honor. DAMN. won Best Rap Album at the GRAMMY Awards last January but was beaten by Bruno Mars in the Album of the Year category.

File photo: Kendrick Lamar in Boston - Photo by Kenny Sun
File photo: Kendrick Lamar plays Boston last year – Photo by Kenny Sun

The Pulitzer board said Monday the album is a “virtuosic song collection” and said it captures “the modern African American life.” The cash award is $15,000. Last year, musician Bob Dylan won the Pulitzer Prize in Literature.

Lamar’s lyrics are continually hailed as important and he gave a politically charged live performance at the GRAMMYs last January.  He blends hip hop, jazz, funk, poetry, African sounds and soul in his music.

He came on the scene in 2011 with the album Section.80, he recorded good kid, m.A.A.d. city in 2012 and To Pimp a Butterfly in 2015.

Lamar’s previous albums also have been acclaimed and have charted, all his driven by his writing about life on the streets.  He has made the crossover to listeners beyond the rap world.

Lamar has had two dozen Top 40 hits, including a No. 1 success with “Humble,” and he has worked with U2, Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons, Rihanna and Beyonce.  Lamar also curated an album to accompany the release of the film Black Panther.

At the 2016 Grammys, his artistic performance of life on the streets came to life as he appeared on the stage beaten, in handcuffs, and delivered his award winning music to the audience.

A poster from a 2010 GZA-Kendrick Lamar show - Image courtesy of Spaceland
A poster from a 2010 GZA-Kendrick Lamar show at The Echoplex – Image courtesy of Spaceland

While he has won 11 Grammy Awards, he has lost in the top category — album of the year. The losses were criticized by the music community,  DAMN. lost out on the album of the year Grammy to Bruno Mars’ “24K Magic” in January.

The staffs of the Arizona Republic and USA Today Network, and The New York Times are among the winners of the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism.

A full list of Pulitzer Prize winners is available here.