Last month, Kendrick Lamar Duckworth won the Pulitzer Prize in music for his 2017 album DAMN. It’s the first work of hip-hop to be commended since the award for musical composition was created in 1943. Most winners have been classical musicians, and a few, like Wynton Marsalis and Ornette Coleman, composers of jazz.

The Pulitzer board noted that DAMN. “offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” The album’s selection updates and redefines conceptions of music and high culture — it is canon expanding and its reverberations and aftershocks should be significant.

DAMN. is Lamar’s third album, and while it is spectacular, I don’t think it’s his most thrilling. good kid m.A.A.d. city, from 2012, succeeds more on the plane of hip-hop aesthetics, with its structurally sound story arc. To Pimp a Butterfly, from 2015, was more melodically lush, and it magnetized a rising tide…

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