Second look at Pulitzer-winning rapper’s opus

Published April 20, 2018, 4:32 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 


This year is big for the rap community because for the first time, the Pulitzer was given not to a non-classicial or jazz artist, but to rapper Kendrick Lamar for his work on the album “DAMN.”

Kendrick Lamar (
Kendrick Lamar

Released in 2017, the fourth solo studio set is just one among his critically acclaimed releases. Recall that “DAMN” also won Best Rap Album at the Grammys 2018.

The Pulitzer Prize Board described the album 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.”

The Pulitzer is the gold medal for excellence in journalism and the arts. And over the decades since it was established in 1918, it has spread over not only into writing, but onto other fields including music.

Well, we certainly liked “DAMN’s” non-traditional approach. Opening track “BLOOD” is an interesting interlude that was more noir-story telling than a proper rap intro. But by “DNA” Lamar was all business. Here he lays down an inventory of his influences. He goes “I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA.” And he was probably referring to his family history of substance abuse, a topic he has tackled early on. But he’s also about swag when he says “I got millions, I got riches buidin’ in my DNA.”

Lamar laid down a big chunk of who he is on this album. On “YAH,” he declares his faith as a Christian while also admitting his tendencies for conspiracy theories as in “I got so many theories and suspicions / I’m diagnosed with real nigga conditions.” We also liked the trap-styyled beats on “GOD.”

Of course it won’t be a rap album without a diss song. “Element” is said to be directed at Drake and Big Sean but on what their “beef” actually is, only they would know. But the track also referenced Lamar’s faith. Moreso on the trap styled beats of “GOD.”

For mainstream pull, the album also has its share of star power in the electro-urban styled “LOYALTY” featuring Rihanna. There’s also “XXX” done with U2. The track featuring singer-producer Bekon (aka Danny Keyz) samples a part of James Brown’s “Get Up Offa That Thing” (wait for the stylistic change when Bono is finally heard near the end part of the song).

Other hotspots in the album are the neo-soul-cum-psychedelia tinged “PRIDE,” and closing track “DUCKWORTH” which takes the listener back to the start.

This album is all about truthful themes and pushing the style of rap into the boundaries of pop and beyond. It’s something this rap artist has been doing from the start.

And with a Pulitzer under his belt, Kendrick Lamar’s greatness is official.