The bars spit were strong, but more so were their lyrical significance, and Pulitzer recognizes that. Awarding the rapper’s fourth L.P the music prize for 2018 is a huge feat, to say the least. Hip hop has enjoyed plenty street cred and ever-increasing popularity, but this win is re-seeing the genre as an art form.
The board’s formal announcement called it a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”
In the cultural conversations that are happening right now, ‘DAMN’ not only represents, it participates. Lamar is no greenhorn to the scene, but the album was one that drew the most attention among the rest, probably because it struck a chord in a time and a people that were ready to receive it.
Selling more than 3.5 million albums and digital streams since its release (going on to another 236% spike in sales following the win), it addressed both personal and political issues. Topics cover faith, the downside of commercial success, and no holds barred verses about race.
Even with the Pulitzer Music Prize, African American musicians didn't get a win until 1996. This year marks the first time an artiste outside classical and jazz music has achieved this honour. Does this mean Geraldo Rivera has to eat his words? Either way, this win, like the album itself, says a lot about the direction of society, and so far, so good.