In April 2018, Kendrick Lamar‘s fourth studio album DAMN. became the first hip-hop album to win the Pulitzer Prize, making Kendrick Lamar the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize for music. In the almost 80 decades of the prestigious Pulitzer award, DAMN. wasn’t just the first hip-hop album to win the award, it was also the first non-classical or jazz album to do so.
The album featured the singles Humble, Royalty and Love (Humble was Kendrick Lamar’s first solo No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100). In addition to winning the Pulitzer Prize for music, DAMN. won five Grammys including a Grammy for Best Rap Album and the album received the NAACP Image Awards for outstanding album.
The Pulitzer board called DAMN. “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”
“It’s an honor … I’ve been writing my whole life, so to get this type of recognition – it’s beautiful” Kendrick Lamar said on the night he accepted the award.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Kendrick Lamar later says,
“It’s one of those things that should have happened with hip-hop a long time ago. It took a long time for people to embrace us—people outside of our community, our culture—to see this not just as vocal lyrics, but to see that this is really pain, this is really hurt, this is really true stories of our lives on wax,” he said. “And now, for it to get the recognition that it deserves as a true art form, that’s not only great for myself, but it makes me feel good about hip-hop in general. Writers like Tupac, Jay Z, Rakim, Eminem, Q-Tip, Big Daddy Kane, Snoop…It lets me know that people are actually listening further than I expected.”