Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer Prize triumph this week was greeted by widespread celebration in the hip-hop and mainstream music worlds — and no small amount of grumbling from more traditional quarters.
The L.A. rapper made history Monday when his album Damn captured the Pulitzer music prize, awarded since 1943 to honor "distinguished musical composition by an American."
For both fans and detractors, it was a stunning win. For decades, the music Pulitzer had gone strictly to classical composers, with three recent jazz exceptions: Wynton Marsalis in 1997, Ornette Coleman in 2007 and Henry Threadgill in 2016. Lamar wasn't merely the first winner from the hip-hop sphere — he was the first from the popular-music universe, period.
But Lamar's selection was merited and meaningful, said Regina Carter, chair of the Pulitzer's five-member music jury.
Speaking with the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit-born violinist championed Lamar and his album — one of the three unanimously selected finalists presented by the jury to the Pulitzer Board for a final decision.
"It's part of the American art form. We felt that his delivery of the work, his writing, was really powerful in the messages he had," Carter said. "You have to really sit with them, and they have heavier meaning than when you hear them the first time."
Damn, Lamar's fourth album, is a musically minimalist work rich with storytelling and commentary that tackles a wide sweep of subjects: police brutality, the financial system, inner angst, family struggles.
"It's his history; it's our history," said Carter. "And no matter what side of the aisle you're on politically, with all the ugliness going on in the world, it speaks to that in a really creative way."
Pushback has largely come from classical musicians and enthusiasts, largely on social media and web forums. Much of it has been collected and presented — albeit with anonymity — at the Twitter feed NewMusicDrama, which held a vote Friday for "Ultimate Bad Pulitzer Take."
"My outrage at a rapper winning the thing has NOTHING to do with 'race' (his or mine), but everything to do with culture," read one post. "Rap music is GARBAGE, and a purveyor of it winning the Pulitzer is the ultimate in philistinism."
Wrote a less incendiary online critic: "The Pulitzer Prize now has no meaning in classical music. It's over."
"For some, it's still unthinkable," Carter told the Free Press. "But (the jury's selection) was not that it was a hip-hop project. It's that it was Kendrick Lamar and what he delivered."
Other skeptics have questioned the Pulitzer decision not because of a distaste for Lamar or hip-hop, per se. Perhaps understandably, they're worried it signals the erosion of one of the few remaining high-profile platforms for recognizing classical music.
Then again, this is an award that has been charged with debate through its lifetime. Even within the classical realm, the Pulitzers were long criticized for emphasizing the work of abstract, challenging high-modernist artists at the expense of others. And it wasn't until 1996 that a black composer — George Walker — won the prize at all.
Carter, who made her name with the Detroit outfit Straight Ahead in the '80s and went on to a celebrated New York jazz career, said Lamar's Pulitzer may help right some misconceptions about the art of hip-hop.
"Some people will argue that (traditional) composers spend years writing their scores, writing their pieces, but they think, 'Well, here's a hip-hop artist who's just going in off-the-cuff," she said. "That's not true. If anybody reads about (Lamar), he spends years on his craft."
Source : https://www.msn.com/en-us/music/news/heres-why-kendrick-lamar-won-a-pulitzer-according-to-the-jury-chair/ar-AAw7OZp670