On 17 April Kendrick Lamar made history by being the first Hip Hop artist to win the coveted Pulitzer prize for achievements in music. In previous years only classical or jazz compositions have won this prestigious prize that was only included as a category in 1943. This award is also known to go to classically trained musicians from Europe, so for the African America rapper to even be nominated is already a major step forward for the Pulitzer awards which have been around since 1917. Lamar has been on the music scene since 2003 but gained major star status after his 2014 Grammy nomination for Album of the year for his 2012 release good kid, m.A.A.d city. In 2015 Lamar released To Pimp a Butterfly. Featuring songs like “King Kunta” and “Alright”, the album solidified Kendrick as a Hip Hop super star. In 2017 Lamar released DAMN which was the entry that earned him his Pulitzer prize. T
he album is a masterpiece of social commentary, well produced songs and let’s just say it: sick beats. DAMN has been raking in the awards for the Compton born rapper. It won Favourite Rap/ Hip Hop Album at the 2017 American music awards as well as the best rap album at this year’s Grammy awards. The most notable tracks on the album are, “DNA”, “Humble”, “Love” and the politically charged “XXX”. The must-watch music video for “DNA” features Don Cheadle and in the song a recording can be heard of a man saying, “This is why I say that Hip Hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years.”
Kendrick responds to this by rapping “this is my heritage”. His whole album tears away at the common misconceptions surrounding race, rap and generalization. It really is an ode to the Tupac, N.W.A days where rap was used to convey a message and to fight authority rather than to brag about a life filled with money, drugs and fast cars which a lot of rap music is filled with these days.
Very few main stream rap artists still use their music to start conversations on real topics like Vince Stapels did with his black female empowerment anthem “BagBak”. Other rappers who still create tracks with lyrics that hit home for them includes Joey Badass and J. Cole. The latter released his brand new album, KOD on 19 April.