Kendrick Lamar cemented his place at the throne of the world of popular music with a Pulitzer prize for his heralded studio album Damn. The multi-Grammy award winner has found praise across his four albums for his lyrical dexterity, keen musical ear, and keen commentary.
The award provides a sense of legitimization for a few things. First, Lamar still exists as an essentially counter-culture figure, despite his pop collaborations, movie scores, and arena tours. There is still a punk fuck you ethos which reverberates through his music, even if he has matured in many ways since his first offering, Section 80. The recognition of the music that your parents want you to turn down by an establishment as stuffy as the Pulitzer is a testament to changing times and Lamar’s genius.
Second, the award provides a further nod from the world of intelligentsia toward liberalism and away from right-wing political waves. Lamar’s fervent political commentary, while toned down from his disquiet To Pimp A Butterfly, would have sat well with critics who may not understand everything about his music, but can grasp the relevance of the work.
The award comes in light of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize last year. As pop culture, counter culture, and established culture come to blur in the age of globalization and desensitization, it will be interesting looking toward the future to see how the evolution of art is judged by its connoisseurs and patrons. The Cannes Film Festival, for example, has drawn its line in the sand by banning Netflix productions from the Festival. However, unlike Netflix or even Bob Dylan, there has been little debate about Lamar’s win. It is seen as a long awaited turn, and there is nobody more deserving to inaugurate the paradigm shift.