Johannesburg - Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. has won this year’s Pulitzer prize for music. Previously an award that saw hardly any black winners, this move shows a growing recognition of hip-hop as a legitimate art form. We should be happy, right? This board kept hip-hop out for decades, and now we’re in.
I’m saying nope, if it took that long, keep your Pulitzer.
The Pulitzer board is comprised of publishers, creative directors and editors from such institutions as the New York Times and various universities. It’s quite illustrious, and predominantly white. These people look mad old and far removed from any element of street culture.
This board bestowed a Pulitzer on last year’s bestselling, Grammy Award-winning album. Kendrick is signed to Interscope Records through the label imprint Aftermath Entertainment, famous for such talent as Dr Dre, 50 Cent and Eminem. In your heart, you know all three have at least one album that is better than DAMN., yet none got a Pulitzer or was even considered for one. But, then again, they’re all far more controversial than Kendrick is.
Kendrick was nominated alongside Michael Gilbertson and Ted Hearne … whoever they are. This board only first considered a work of jazz in 1997, so the fact that a rap album was even considered is apparently something we should be grateful for. But why? They shunned the culture for years, not once considering the social effect of an entire golden era of hip-hop from the early 90s to the end of the 2000s. That means they were never down for AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted by Ice Cube;
Had no concept of the group Niggas With Attitude (NWA);
And couldn’t even begin to take a journey through 36 Chambers from Wu-Tang Clan.
I won’t talk about anyone beyond hip-hop because then we’d have to ask about Bob Marley.
All the while these pompous Pulitzer peeps were nominating works of classical music and jazz.They do have some credibility in that Duke Ellington and John Coltrane have received this award. These were clean-cut gentlemen; silky jazz mavericks who weren’t as overtly angry and foul-mouthed as most of the rappers in hip-hop’s golden era.
Rap in those days was intricate and rebellious in nature. Our beloved art form has since dipped into a phase where lukewarm lyricism and a polished image make a person a revered MC.
In my opinion, Kendrick only won this award because he’s the only “conscious” MC who is moving units at the moment – and because his bland consciousness is a lot easier to stomach than NWA (a trio from Compton) screaming 'Fuck tha Police'. Kendrick’s album also speaks about police shootings, but the message is hardly as incendiary now as it was back then. It’s not hard to win an award when nobody else in the commercial sphere of rap is saying anything more than, “I just took a xanny and a perc”.
If you weren’t lost in the theatrics of Kendrick’s production, or his random shouty flows, you might’ve heard this on the track called Humble: “Get the fuck off my stage, I’m the Sandman (Sandman)/ Get the fuck off my dick, that ain’t right/ I make a play fuckin’ up your whole life/ I’m so fuckin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop/ Show me somethin’ natural like Afro on Richard Pryor/ Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks/ Still will take you down right on your mama’s couch in Polo socks, ay”.
That right there is Pulitzer-worthy penmanship? Please.
Dana Canedy, a member on this out-of-touch board, told the New York Times that this was the perfect time for this award to be given to a hip-hop act as it shone a light on the genre in a different way. In other words, it’s just robust enough to not unsettle their frightened white ears. It says black people are having it rough (which is not a new theme, by the way), but we’re looking to the light and hoping to educate the white man on his shortcomings by making him dance to Mike WiLL Made-It beats. Why not: ‘Hey, Dana, he isn’t a gangster, he’s just a good kid from a mad city.’ What a damn shame.