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Kendrick Lamar is the First Rapper in History to Win a Pulitzer Prize

When Kendrick Lamar dropped his fourth studio album DAMN. on April 14, 2017, the world was anticipating yet another masterpiece from the Compton rapper, especially after the critical and commercial success of good kid, m.A.A.d city and To Pimp a Butterfly.

But in addition to the acclaim and chart-topping success that the album would receive, K.Dot would also achieve what no other rapper has ever done – winning a Pulitzer Prize for Music. By winning the prestigious award in 2018, Kendrick’s DAMN. became the first musical work not in the jazz or classical genre to win the prize, marking a historical moment in the recognition of hip hop as a legitimate and influential art form. The album also won Best Rap Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards and received a nomination for Album of the Year.

“It was one of those things I heard about in school,” he said in an interview with Vanity Fair shortly after receiving the award. “But I never thought I’d be a part of it [When I heard I got it], I thought, to be recognized in an academic world . . . whoa, this thing really can take me above and beyond.”

“It’s one of those things that should have happened with hip-hop a long time ago,” he continued. “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. 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.”

A captivating and vibrant tapestry of conscious hip hop, DAMN. blended elements of trap, R&B, and pop, into a brilliant kaleidoscope of sound and meaning, all while fearlessly tackling themes such as race, faith, and personal struggle. Over bangers like “DNA.” or introspective tracks like “PRIDE.” and storytelling masterpieces like “DUCKWORTH.,” Kendrick continued to cement his legacy as one of the greatest lyricists in hip hop history.

Upon its release DAMN. debuted at the top of the US Billboard 200, earning 603,000 album-equivalent units in its first week. It also topped the charts in Canada and reached the second position in Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. The RIAA certified the album triple platinum in May 2018, and it became the Billboard Year-End number one album of 2017. In 2020, Rolling Stone ranked the album 175th on its updated list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

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