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Pulitzer Prize awarded to Kendrick Lamar's "DAMN."

by Sarah Morris - Copy Editor
Tue, Apr 24th 2018 06:00 pm

The Pulitzer Prize is an award given to those who have made outstanding achievements in media such as newspaper, magazine, literature, online journalism and musical composition. The Pulitzer Prize was created by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer at Columbia University in 1917, in hopesof launching a journalism school. The 13 specific award categories he established included four “Journalism” awards, four “Letters and Drama” awards, one education award and four traveling scholarships. 

Since then, more categories and subcategories have been added: “Journalism” offers 14 awards, and music was added to the “Letters and Drama” category, which has seven awards available. There is also a “Special Citations” category, which only offers one award, but not every year.

Choosing a Pulitzer Prize award winner is a tight and thorough procedure that includes judges who have experience in the categories they are judging. In late February or early March, 77 editors, publishers, writers and educators visit the School of Journalism to judge the 14 journalism entrie. Over 2,400 entries are submitted each year in the Pulitzer Prize competitions, but only 21 awards are given. It is a year-long process that the judges are asked to make three nominations in each of the 21 categories.

The most recent Pulitzer Prize for music went to American rapper Kendrick Lamar for his fourth studio album, “DAMN.” which was released April of 2017. This was the first prize in music given to something other than a classical composer or jazz artist. 

According to The New York Times, the Pulitzer music jury voted unanimously to choose Lamar for the award. It has caused some stir in the general public by those who don’t “accept” the hip-hop genre as music, let alone worthy of such a prestigious award, which the Pulitzer Prize Board says is for “distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the year.”

There’s no doubt that Kendrick Lamar is not only a talented musician, but also producer, as proven by the soundtrack, “Black Panther: The Album,” which received a weighted national score of 82 out of 100, according to Metacritic. 

This is all very impressive; however, Lamar won the prize for “DAMN.” not “Black Panther: The Album.” That’s not to say “DAMN.” doesn’t deserve some love, because it has a few hot tracks, but it’s nowhere near his best album.

Not only did he actually write and produce all the songs for an entire Hollywood film soundtrack, but those compositions are better and include a wide range of other talented singers and rappers featured in the album. However, not even that album deserves to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it would do the Pulitzer Prize judges well to branch out when it comes to genres in music and literature, and I’m glad they are finally acknowledging hip-hop as a legitimate art form, but I don’t think one of the most famous American rappers of this decade should’ve taken the award from a lesser-known musician with potential to one day reach the status Lamar is at now.

Lamar is an extremely talented rapper whose album, as the Pulitzer board says, has “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”

Chances are, though, there is someone with even more talent than Lamar out there who is on the brink of success and the Pulitzer Prize could just be what they need to push them over the line that separates them from being a dreamer and an award-winner. I hope that this changes the future of music awards for the better, and starts a trend of more open minds.



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