Kendrick Lamar's 'DAMN' Is the First Non-Classical, Non-Jazz Pulitzer Prize Winner in History

Kendrick Lamar was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music on Monday, making him the first non-classical and non-jazz winner ever.

Reforms put in place by Columbia University’s Pulitzer Prize Board between 1996 and 2004 aimed to expand the music prize to “larger forms” outside of modern classical music and jazz norms, Vox first reported. But Lamar’s DAMN album, released on April 14, 2017, is the first hip-hop or contemporary music of any style to win the award.

The Pulitzer Prize board described DAMN as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” Critics lauded the complexity of his fourth studio album, despite it being a return to his most conventional hip-hop sound since 2012’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, which brought him national prominence. Lamar’s past albums have primarily focused on narratives stemming from his childhood in the Compton, California.  

“Storytelling has been Lamar’s greatest skill and most primary mission, to put into (lots of) words what it's like to grow up as he did—to articulate, in human terms, the intimate specifics of daily self-defense from your surroundings. Somehow, he’s gotten better,” Pitchfork’s Matthew Trammell remarked on the Pulitzer site.

Lamar, 30, has won 11 Grammy Awards throughout his career, although DAMN lost to Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic in the album of the year category. The album took on his most political theme to date, with the song’s hit single “DNA” featuring Fox News host Geraldo Rivera declaring “Hip-hop has done more damage to young African-Americans than racism in recent years.” The album features performances from Rihanna and U2 while also taking several shots at President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated just a few months before the album’s release.

“Donald Trump's in office/We lost Barack and promised to never doubt him again/But is America honest, or do we bask in sin?” Lamar raps in the song featuring U2’s Bono.

In the song "Lust," Lamar addresses the fallout of Trump's election. “We all woke up, tryna tune to the daily news/Looking for confirmation, hoping election wasn't true."

Lamar won out over two more traditional selections in Quartet by Michael Gilbertson, which premiered on February 2, 2017 at Weill Recital Hall in New York City, which the Pulitzer board described as "a masterwork in a traditional format, the string quartet, that is unconstrained by convention or musical vogues and possesses a rare capacity to stir the heart."

DAMN also defeated Sound from the Bench, composed by Ted Hearne and performed by by The Crossing. The panel described the album as a "five-movement cantata for chamber choir, electric guitar and percussion that raises oblique questions about the crosscurrents of power through excerpts from sources as diverse as Supreme Court rulings and ventriloquism textbooks."

Lamar's representatives did not immediately respond to Newsweek's requests for reaction.