Kendrick Lamar, surrounded with adulation.
Kendrick Lamar becomes the first rap and popular music artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for music with his third brilliant album in a row, DAMN. This ranks up there with other music cultural historic events like Bruce Springsteen being on the covers of both Time and Newsweek in 1975 and Nirvana’s punk rock commercial mass appeal breakthrough with Nevermind. Actually it ranks higher because of it involves the rewarding of the actual work instead of the effect the artist or album has on the zeitgeist.
And what an album it is. DAMN at first listen doesn’t knock you down immediately, the music is actually very commercial and the songs are more compact and minimal than the long duration tracks of his first two albums, but it grows immensely with each hearing, guaranteeing infinite playbacks and assuring it’s timelessness. It’s interesting that every song on the album all have one word titles and they are in all caps, which in digital communications on social media is the expressing of not only emphasis for making a point but also the equivalent of yelling.
But what’s great about this new recognition is that this saves the full album format from certain death and will give other artists more motivation and make stronger efforts to make passionate, meaningful and even political music again. For the album is currently under threat from the ubiquity of streaming music, mostly bad, soulless music with vapid and inane lyrics and also being declared virtually dead by dubious musicians like DJ Tiesto who has now submitted to make EPs instead by acknowledging the brief attention span of his audience and consumers of all current pop music as well as his own.
But DAMN and it’s dignified artistic recognition puts that theory to pasture. What’s great about DAMN is that it not only has strong memorable singles like HUMBLE and the outstanding LOYALTY (with Rhianna, who gets better with every listen), it has mesmerizing deep cuts on the album like ELEMENT and FEEL. And just like his last two albums, it has tracks that change up styles lyrically and musically in 180 and 240 degrees, like the brooding to banging DNA and the schizoid mashing of XXX that ends with a bluesy coda featuring the band U2 (who in just about a minute, hadn’t sounded that great and soulful on their own in over a decade).
Of course, there is the rapping and the lyrics which is the reason why the Pulitzer voters gave him the award. DAMN is mostly an hour long sermon, mission statement, diatribe and tirade on the ubiquitous strife and perpetual injustices that still continues on black individuals and communities and is more transparent going on in this nation, particularly under Figurehead Trump and the creeping police state he and his administration and law enforcement agencies are encouraging. But the cool thing about DAMN is that it’s content also applies to other races from lower classes (which now includes the dwindling middle class), giving it universal appeal.
DAMN’s Pulitzer status, which comes on the heels of NWA getting congressional landmark status for their album “Straight out of Compton”, gives confirmed legitimacy and credibility for the use of profanities for artistic expression and in a way to hammer down the facts being presented. Which, for self-serving reasons, gives this digital publication a reason to continue it’s muckraking with righteous vitriol.
Way to go Pulitzer Panel and congrats to King Kendrick Lamar, making music and general history becoming a true living legend and actual icon and giving other artists from all genres new motivation to bring their quality levels up a notch. And officially establishing once and for all what Prince, who died exactly 2 years ago from fucking fentanyl painkillers prescribed by a physician slave of the Big Pharma Industry, stated straight up at the Grammys in one of his last mainstream appearances:
“Albums still matter”