Kendrick Lamar’s music is Pulitzer Prize winner

April 16, 2018 Kendrick Lamar was the first artist from the hip hop universe, with the album “Damn”to win the Pulitzer Prize for music, an award traditionally given to classical composers or jazz musicians. The prize was awarded to his work on the album with the following motivation, “a virtuosic collection of songs characterized by an authenticity of the slang and rhythmic dynamism, capable of offering striking images that capture the complexity of African-American society today” . So on the day of the fifth anniversary of this important and symbolic recognition to one of the greatest exponents of modern music, we’re going to re-read the album review “Damn” who wrote for us Michael Boroni.

It can’t be easy being Kendrick Lamar. Especially after making a big, rich, impactful work like “To Pimp a Butterfly,” hailed by both President Obama and Compton’s young residents, and crowned him king and savior of hip- hop. Not easy at all. Thus, after the overwhelming success (of critics and the media rather than of the general public), Lamar began a path of normalization already in 2016 with a series of particularly pop featurings (from SIA to Maroon 5, from Taylor Swift to Alicia Keys); a downsizing process necessary to get rid of that heavy burden, such as having become the favorite target of the conservative channel Fox News – which accused him of being a violent instigator after the beautiful and measured performance at the BET Awards – but also the object of cumbersome comparisons with Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, from usually sober newspapers like the New Yorker.

With DAMN.

, the album released last Friday, Kendrick Lamar takes a step back both in terms of lyrics and musical content. Let’s start with the latter: Lamar abandons jazz influences and the “George Clinton obsession” to return to a sound born of west coast hip-hop. Outside therefore the various Terence Martin, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington and inside hip-hop producers such as Mike Will Made It, Sounwave, DJ Dahi and Anthony Tiffith, also old acquaintances of him. The single HUMBLE. (well yes, all the track titles are written in caps lock with the final dot, not everything can fit.) it is an absolute banger, and with that piano and bass hitting at the right point he made us understand that this fourth of his disco would have moved into more canonical territories.

And so it was: 14 tracks of excellent hip-hop, with no concept album ties between them, of which at least 4 potentially successful singles. LUST is a beautiful reflection on celebrity where Lamar, accompanied by the instrumental of BadBadNotGood, reveals a particularly soulful voice; then there is the Kanyewestian ELEMENT. which also sees Londoner James Blake and DNA among the producers. where K-dot (old nickname of Lamar), recalling the criticisms of FoxNews, on a standard hip-hop beat manages to bring out a particularly angry text and with a masterful flow. But perhaps the biggest surprise is given by XXX., the track with U2 that on paper had raised more than one eyebrow and instead represents the spearhead of this DAMN.: an unpredictable and very articulated song, with constant changes of trend and where Bono’s voice in the queue is not only discreet, but is absolutely well blended with the rest.

Perhaps the least convincing episodes are those that focus more on pop territory: LOYALTY with Rihanna (where little Kendrick is in the role usually reserved for Drake) and LOVE with the participation of the young Zacari and which, in terms of voice and track structure, recalls very much a piece of the late Justin Bieber (here behind it is Greg Kurstin, half of The Bird and the Bee and architect of the latest productions of Adele, Sia and Lily Allen). However, these are songs, in writing and structure, above the average hip-hop today.

In an interview with the New York Times Lamar declared that “To Pimp a Butterfly was a record about how to deal with the problem (ed: of the social situation of African Americans).

But now I’m in a dimension where I’m no longer dealing with it”, but the good Kendrick has certainly not shifted his lens by talking about sentimental affairs or the fashion world. Several times there are clear political references from the United States (“Boss with homicidal thoughts / Donald Trump in office / we lost Barack and he promised not to doubt him again” in XXX.), but most of the lyrics are focused on him, about his perception of the world (FEAR.), about his sins (LUST., PRIDE.) and his hypocrisies (XXX.). As always there is a great deal of creative writing and construction of rhymes, such as the initial burst of HUMBLE. in which he rhymes “syrup sandwiches and crime allowances” / “counterfeits” / “counting this” / “accountant lives” and “analysts”.

From a certain point of view we can consider DAMN. as the worthy continuation of “good kid, mAAd city” the 2012 record that made him known to the general public. Even with this record, more canonical than his previous works, Kendrick Lamar nevertheless confirms himself as the most gifted, lucid and intelligent rapper of the entire contemporary hip-hop scene.

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