Kendrick Lamar wins Pulitzer: A look at some of the rap artist's earlier works, from m.A.A.d city to ADHD

FP Staff

Apr 17, 2018 15:51:17 IST

Kendrick Lamar, on Monday, became the first rapper to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, a milestone for which the board cited his skill in putting the African-American experience out there.

With the Pulitzer, the 30-year-old from the Los Angeles community of Compton joins the leagues of celebrated American composers such as Aaron Copland, Charles Ives and John Adams. The Pulitzer board, which also awards literature and journalism, gave Lamar the prize for DAMN., an exploration of a classic hip-hop sound for an artist who has shifted gears musically with each album.

In its announcement, the Pulitzer board described DAMN. 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."

While Lamar was rewarded for his latest album, he has collected an impressive body of work in a career spanning almost nine years. His piercing and sharp raps helped him ascend as the leader in hip-hop and cross over to audiences outside of rap, from rock to pop to jazz.

Here is a look at some of his earlier works which helped him become the voice of a generation.

m.A.A.d city

Possibly his best song before he released DAMN., "m.A.A.d city" is song about his hometown Compton. Highlighting the city's opposing gangs, Pirus Bloods and Compton Crips, Lamar jumps right into the — often lethal — realities of living in Compton. Lamar almost gasps for breath in some parts of "m.A.A.d city" as he tries to instil in us the urgency of running from death and violence in a crime-ridden city.


There is section in 'Alright' where the music goes quiet and it is just Lamar talking. It ends with a shot being fired before the actual video starts. After this the groovy sound kicks in as Lamar completely flips the tone he was using early in the song, making it a great example of his musical versatility.

In the end though, 'Alright' is a song about hope as Lamar assures the listener that "We gon' be alright". And in an increasingly scary world, for a lot of his audience, that assurance is the most important part of the song.


The Art of Peer Pressure

Another from the good kid, m.A.A.d. city album, this song is just about the thrill of doing things you are not supposed to when you are young. The smooth melody of the first segment soon flips to a darker beat which conveys the menace of being young and brash in Compton.

The Blacker the Berry

A song which has drawn comparisons with 'Alright', 'The Blacker the Berry', has become an anthem in wake of the high-profile police shootings of minorities as the conversation about race relations dominates news headlines. The song screamed black empowerment and is brash in the way it asks African Americans to not just accept their race but to celebrate it


'A.D.H.D' from his first album Section.80 reflects one of the best parts of Lamar's work: his ability to dive into the scenarios he describes. He is not just an observer on the scene. Instead he is at the party, trying to get a hammered friend back on his feet even as he lusts after a girl. The song deals with drugs, and boredom with real honesty and setting up a career on talking about race and poverty.

Bonus: Black Panther soundtrack

While Lamar became a phenomenon with DAMN, appearing on the Black Panther soundtrack meant that even people living under rocks heard his music. Teaming up with SZA, Lamar almost took a backseat on this one, giving the celebration of African culture precedence.

The song did however run into trouble after the duo was sued for allegedly copying the artwork for the music video.

Updated Date: Apr 17, 2018 15:51:17 IST