Joseph Pulitzer, whom the award is named after, prided himself on being a self-made man. His prestigious works in literature lead him to become the face of American Journalism in the latter half of the 19th Century.
The award is intended upon the motivation for success amongst people to make influential work in the fields of,Literature, Journalism, Music, Drama and Poetry.
Nonetheless, as a general wave, the young people of the world and the conscious music critics of today are excited to see the Prize take a new turn. Kendrick Lamar winning this award is significant, because he is the exact person who should be receiving such an honorable award.
There has been much controversy with Lamar’s winning this award, due to the fact that the Pulitzer Board voting’s for music in the past has generally been given out to classical and jazz music composers. Therefore, Lamar winning the award has been upsetting for those who see the award for its storied tradition.
Lamar came out of the rough streets of Compton, and managed to stay off drugs and away from gang-banging, to give the people in his community a new role model to look up to.
He continually references his childhood experiences throughout all of his work and portrays a message of being “humble” in times of success. He emphasizes family roots and making sure that your loved ones are provided for.
In a recent Washington Post Article, Alyssa Rosenberg, an opinion writer covering Pop Culture education with the Washington Post, and Alex Temple a professional composer, writer, and performer, discuss the Prize and the Prize winner, Rosenberg chats with Temple to gain insight on the thoughts and feelings of those within the industry.
“When Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” won the Pulitzer Prize for music on Monday, the reaction I saw among the pop music critics and fans I read and follow was basically unanimously enthusiastic” (Rosenberg).
Temple responds, “All over the map. A lot of people are very enthusiastic about Kendrick’s win, saying that it’s about time the Pulitzer moved beyond its limited focus on contemporary classical music and, for the most part, on work by white men. On the other side, there are people saying that hip-hop doesn’t even count as music; I even saw one trot out the old cliche that, ‘you can’t spell ‘crap’ without rap.’ And some are in the middle, appreciative of Kendrick’s work but afraid that classical music will be eclipsed if popular music has access to institutions like the Pulitzer.”
Rosenberg asks, “As fraught as the response to Lamar’s win seems to have been over the past couple of days, do you see any conversations starting to emerge out of it? Are there lessons you think the naysayers in your professional communities could learn from this? Or does it draw attention to issues, like limited opportunities and downward economic mobility in the field, that no one prize was ever going to fix for everyone?”
Temple answered, “There have been some productive conversations, yeah. I’ve also seen some people argue that it would be better for the Pulitzer to go to classical composers from underrepresented groups than to Kendrick Lamar. I think it’s worth noting that I’ve only heard white people say this. The composers of color I know have been very positive about “DAMN.” winning the prize. Including last year’s winner, Du Yun. But I feel like we’re never going to have a really honest conversation about this until we can talk about our underlying fear of cultural irrelevance. And to talk about that, we need to ask who specifically we want to be relevant to.”
Rosenberg asks one last question, “Is there classical or new-music work that you see as addressing some of those same themes [Lamar’s themes of gang violence and racism]? How are those works received by other performers and composers?”
Temple answered, “A classical work about the experience of growing up in the midst of gang feuds and under the thumb of systemic racism, and what that does to a person? There probably is, but I haven’t heard it.”
“I imagine that says something about who gets access to classical-music education and training in the first place.” (Rosenberg). “For sure. Speaking as a white person from a privileged background myself, [Lamar’s album] “good kid, m.A.A.d city” was very eye-opening for me. I remember listening to it at one point and thinking (as Ayesha A. Siddiqi tweeted a couple of years ago) “white people are afraid of a dystopian future, but the dystopia is already here.” I haven’t seen the new-music world dealing with that. Though there may be things I’ve missed (Temple).
You can catch Kendrick Lamar on tour this summer in a city near you! Check here for more information, including tickets!