Rapper Kendrick Lamar, in a watershed moment for the Pulitzer Prizes, accepted the award for music Wednesday in a ceremony at Columbia University. Lamar is the first musician outside the classical and jazz genres to receive the honor, was cited for his album “DAMN.”
Lamar joins the likes of Aaron Copland, Gian Carlo Menotti and Wynton Marsalis as a music honoree. “DAMN.” was nominated for a Grammy, but Lamar lost the album of the year award to Bruno Mars.
In making the presentation, Columbia President Lee Bollinger described Lamar’s fourth LP as a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African American life.”
Pulitzer winners do not make acceptance speeches, but in a Facebook Live video on the Pulitzer Prizes page, Lamar told Sree Sreenivasan, “I’ve been writing my whole life, so to get this type of recognition, it’s beautiful.”
The Pulitzer Prizes date to 1917 and honor outstanding work in journalism and the arts, letters and music. The first Pulitzer for music was awarded in 1943 to William Schuman for “Secular Cantata No. 2: A Free Song.”
After making the announcement of the Pulitzer honorees in April, Pulitzer Administrator Dana Canedy told The New York Times: “We are very proud of this selection. It means that the jury and the board judging system worked as it’s supposed to the best work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.”