On April 16 , it was announced that influential rapper Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for music for his most recent album, DAMN. With the win, Lamar became the first non-classical or jazz musician to win the prestigious award — although he has sampled Pulitzer-winning jazz and classical pieces in his music. Many are calling the historic win a monumental moment for hip-hop. However, it is unclear why Lamar won the award for DAMN., and not for his 2015 release To Pimp a Butterfly, which is arguably a more politically and socially influential album. The recognition is earned, but overdue, and the win feels forced rather than outright deserved.
Much like Leonardo DiCaprio’s best actor Oscar win for The Revenant in 2016, Lamar’s win feels somewhat like a token win, to make up for being snubbed in the past. In fact, while it is nearly universally regarded as a more poignant album than DAMN. and considered to be Lamar’s magnum opus, To Pimp a Butterfly was not even nominated for the Pulitzer following its release. However, DAMN. was the unanimous pick to win the award by the voters of the prize. It is a great moment for music, but, it took far too long for this moment to come.
While DAMN. is a successful and powerful album, there have been other more deserving albums that were never nominated. Perhaps the Pulitzer committee is finally catching up with the times. However, it may be too little, too late.