Kendrick Lamar Became to First Hip-Hop Artist to Win a Pulitzer Prize

If you have not heard already, Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize for his latest studio album Damn. Lamar is the first non-classical and non-jazz artist to earn the award in music, and people have a lot of questions. Billboard spoke with a Pulitzer Prize board administrator, Dana Canedy, who elaborated on how the Compton rapper won the prize.

According to Canedy, the jury was “considering a piece of music they felt had hip-hop influences,” and eventually came to the conclusion that they should choose something hip-hop. They then brought the recommendation to the board, where it became a unanimous vote in favor of Damn.

“We have an amazing system that worked as it should this year,” Canedy explains. “The jury made the recommendation to the board, I am on the board, and then the board considered the jury recommendation, and unanimously voted in favor of this. We’re very excited. The system worked the way it should in that a really spectacular work was celebrated today in the music category.

Dana also reveals that only some Pulitzer Prize winners know that they are being considered, but they kept it a complete secret from Kendrick, just like the rest of us.

“He had no idea he was being considered so this is a complete surprise,” she admits. “I was actually worried he would think it was a hoax, but it’s not [laughs]. I don’t even know if he knows yet.”

Fans have been wondering why any other popular album hasn’t been considered all these years, and what it took for Damn. to convince the jury and board of earning the prize. Canedy doesn’t have all the answers for the concerns, but she does mention the album showing “brilliance” music-wise.

“I don’t really know why, I’m just glad it is happening now. The important thing about this is the jury and the board just decided that the album is a word of vernacular avant-garde. It’s a dense and sophisticated collage of hybrid sounds, polyrhythms, layered under what we would probably consider pulsing kinetic text. The brilliance of the music is what’s shone through.”

Jelani Arthur Williamson