Kendrick Lamar first ever non-classical or jazz artist to win prestigious Pulitzer Prize for music

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Associated Press

Kendrick Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for music, making history as the first non-classical or jazz artist to win the prestigious prize.

FILE - In this July 7, 2017, file photo, Kendrick Lamar performs during the Festival d'ete de Quebec in Quebec City, Canada.On Monday, April 16, 2018, Lamar won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his album "Damn." (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)

Kendrick Lamar performs during the Festival d'ete de Quebec in Quebec City, Canada.

Source: Associated Press

The revered rapper is also the most commercially successful musician to receive the award, usually reserved for critically acclaimed classical acts who don't live on the pop charts.

The 30-year-old won the prize for DAMN., his Grammy-winning album. The Pulitzer board said overnight the album is a "virtuosic song collection" and said it captures "the modern African American life." He will win US$15,000.

Lamar has been lauded for his deep lyrical content, politically charged live performances, and his mix of hip-hop, spoken word, jazz, soul, funk, poetry and African sounds. Since emerging on the music scene with the 2011 album "Section.80," he has achieved the perfect mix of commercial appeal and critical respect.

The Pulitzer board has awarded special honours to Bob Dylan, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and Hank Williams, but a popular figure like Lamar has never won the prize for music. In 1997, Wynton Marsalis became the first jazz act to win the Pulitzer Prize for music.

His platinum-selling major-label albums — "good kid, m.A.A.d city,"

'To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN. — became works of art, with Lamar writing songs about blackness, street life, police brutality, perseverance, survival and self-worth.

He's also been a dominator on the charts, having achieved two dozen Top 40 hits, including a No. 1 success with Humble, and he has even collaborated with the likes of U2, Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons, Rihanna and Beyonce.

Lamar's musical success helped him win 12 Grammy Awards, though all three of his major-label albums have lost in the top category — album of the year.

Each loss has been criticised by the music community, launching the conversation about how the Recording Academy might be out of touch. DAMN. lost out on the album of the year Grammy to Bruno Mars' 24K Magic in January.

The rapper, born in Compton, California, was hand-picked by Black Panther director Ryan Coogler to curate an album to accompany the ubiquitously successful film, giving Lamar yet again another No. 1 effort and highly praised project.

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