DAMN!
April 16, 2018 10:03 PM   Subscribe

Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. wins the Pulitzer. Called “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” DAMN. is the first album to win that isn’t a jazz or classical album.
posted by Grandysaur (43 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
deserved.
posted by tmcw at 10:44 PM on April 16 [8 favorites]


A great choice by this committee, absolutely worthwhile. It has just blown up classical/new music spheres--this Twitter feed, New Music Drama, is frankly hysterical.

This should be a real moment for music schools to take a hard, unbiased look at what a 21st-century, American musical curriculum really can/should look like. As a colleague expressed on FB: that moment when you simultaneously feel elated that a great popular work won the Pulitzer in music, and realize that the artist who created it would not meet the admissions standards for your undergraduate music program....
posted by LooseFilter at 10:53 PM on April 16 [50 favorites]


It's interesting how the border of what's "high art" shifts over time. Socrates was skeptical about writing. In Jane Austen's time, the idea of teaching novels in school would have been ridiculous. I've often guessed that my kids or grand kids will probably experience, say, Bob Dylan, or early seasons of the Simpsons, as something they had to slog through in school. I think Kendrick winning is awesome. It shifts that border forward some, I think, in a good way.
posted by Rinku at 11:01 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


It's interesting how the border of what's "high art" shifts over time.

The composer Edgard Varèse said something that, for me at least, explains the essential aspect of this pattern:
"Contrary to general belief, an artist is never ahead of his time; but most people are far behind theirs."
posted by LooseFilter at 11:11 PM on April 16 [64 favorites]


Rinku, most of my knowledge of Bob Dylan's oeuvre is from a college course, and I'm 32.
posted by potrzebie at 11:35 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


I'm 28, and most of my knowledge of Ren and Stimpy comes from a college class. I'm not joking.

It's a thing I think about often, though, how the categories we use for our own modern cultural products will change, how 99% of entertainment from our century will be widely forgotten and the last 1% will he held up as unimpeachable. What would I think of that art from a future time? Would I be bored by it? Would I understand it? Would I find it horrifying? I love Kendrick, but if my grandmother knew that a black man whose music is popular with high school students won the Pulitzer prize for an album that included the line "get money, fuck bitches," she'd freak. And she'd be wrong to, but still.

There's part of me that imagines, in a hundred years, this same conversation happening on, whatever, the new-light all-mind or written on the scraps of tin cans we trade for rat meat, whatever, depending on how the future goes, and someone commenting, "most of my knowledge of virtual reality sex crime simulations come from a college course." Not to equate that with Kendrick's album, just as an example of a thing that I, today, wouldn't understand.

Anyway, I think this was a great choice for the prize, and, to put it in the words of that Varèse quote, it makes me think in terms of the big picture of culture and makes me wonder about the ways in which I'm behind my own time, I suppose.
posted by Rinku at 12:04 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I'm happy to be behind my own time when it comes to art. Of course, one might expect that people are learning to make better and better art over time, but the past is so big that most of the best art may yet be in it.
posted by value of information at 12:37 AM on April 17


Lots of monocles hitting the floor here. I guess someone saw Hamilton so now they're woke to hip hop. Lamar is ok, but it's difficult to believe he's the first one worthy of the prize. If it weren't for Public Enemy I wouldn't have known who Malcolm X was. It's not like they taught that in school.

Thank god it wasn't Kanye.
posted by adept256 at 12:46 AM on April 17 [26 favorites]


After I heard Sing About Me I said Kendrick missed his true calling as a poet, but I can't fault him for choosing a more lucrative mode of communication. Oh, and his music's not too shabby either.

Seconding the above deserved.
posted by she's not there at 12:57 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Also seconding in spades thank god it wasn't Kanye.
posted by she's not there at 12:58 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


Guys sit down. Be humble.
posted by supercrayon at 1:20 AM on April 17 [8 favorites]


I said Kendrick missed his true calling as a poet

Not sure he missed it so much as he prefers to perform it.
posted by solarion at 1:39 AM on April 17 [44 favorites]


Kendrick missed his true calling as a poet, but I can't fault him for choosing a more lucrative mode of communication

This seems kind of ... dismissive... of the art form that he chose?
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 1:46 AM on April 17 [31 favorites]


Yeah, I'm sure it wasn't intended as such, but there's something quite uncomfortable in seeing poetry as the missed "true calling" of any rapper judged sufficiently gifted.

While I'm here, I'll update my notes now I know we're edgy enough to be snotty about Hamilton and lukewarm on Kendrick but not edgy enough to enjoy Kanye, good to know.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:48 AM on April 17 [40 favorites]


Oh double post, probably would not have posted my first para if I'd seen I was third to the point, don't want to pile on.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:49 AM on April 17


This seems kind of ... dismissive... of the art form that he chose?

Not even remotely true and, frankly, a bit insulting to me, especially considering that I included the remark his music's not too shabby either.

And just to be clear, that was not dismissive either, rather said tongue-in-cheek.
posted by she's not there at 3:15 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah. This is step in the right direction against that elitist idea of what is art and what isn't. Of course it's poetry, it's all made up of words. It's like graffiti or computer games, it's obviously art and only elitist, classist pricks don't recognize it for what it is.
posted by adept256 at 3:25 AM on April 17


It's interesting how the border of what's "high art" shifts over time

My sense is that the shift itself is what art is, high or no.
posted by rhizome at 3:31 AM on April 17


the collector's edition of DAMN has the tracks in reverse order, so the songs speak to each other in new ways. I'm curious the degree to which he'd planned it all along. For those of you who've already heard it plenty, it's a great way to get new enjoyment out of a familiar album.
posted by yaymukund at 3:32 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


God, I've read more than one interview with Very Serious Rock Bands talking about absolutely killing themselves getting track order perfect - to be able to just drop a different version in reverse seems like a way healthier perspective on / relationship with your own art...
posted by ominous_paws at 3:41 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


That twitter feed is hilarious and hysterical.

The screen shots of people quoting the lyrics in dismay nearly have me cackling. They just really don't get that it's as representative of African American culture as say, wine dark sea sea is to the Odyssey.

It's a story, it's vignettes, told in a vernacular of the people the story is about by an author of those people. Get a grip on those monocles people.

/me cackles and runs off into the sunset
posted by sio42 at 4:30 AM on April 17 [4 favorites]


God, I want to know everything about what's going on here. I would assume the Venn circles of "studious aficionados of classic music" and "people ready to go full volume white panic on twitter" are not very overlapped, and those shrieking knew eff all about the prize until today, but you never know.
posted by ominous_paws at 4:44 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


that's the thing I wonder about, ominous_paws. Normally, when an artist does that you can safely assume it's a gimmick but in this case it works. I mean, BLOOD is a great opening and closing track

And if Good Kid M.A.A.D City and To Pimp A Butterfly are any indication, he cares about that sort of album-level unity. of course, he makes it seem effortless because everything he touches is a damn gold mine, hehe
posted by yaymukund at 4:46 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]




I'm not a huge Lamar fan but, in principle, this is long overdue. Rap is by far the most important musical genre currently, and it has been for at least 25 years.

It is hilarious to me that the same generation who laughed at their parents for not understanding rock and roll are now saying that Rap isn't really music. I could go one, but the fish are mostly dead and the barrel is getting holes in it.

Kids today already think of NWA as old people music, and we're going to listening to Migos in the nursing home in just a few decades.
posted by 256 at 5:29 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


This article from last year touches on the reverse order thing.
posted by misozaki at 5:33 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Where’s Kool Keith’s Pulitzer?
posted by Don.Kinsayder at 5:49 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


This reminds me a bit of when I first found out opera was initially considered declasse and gauche. It wasn't always tuxes and fancy binoculars.

Everything cool was once snubbed as being unsophisticated jibber jabber for the masses.

I love all of this. Jewelers who restring pearls will probably see a fine surge in business.

And the best part is that this album isn't just retelling of ancient folk stories from Europe like most opera, it's current and political and recent.
posted by sio42 at 6:18 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


man, I was just listening to my Native Tongues playlist a few days ago wondering why the hell Jurassic 5 and Tribe and De La Soul weren't as critically lauded in their day and here Kendrick goes and wins a Pulitzer

that quote above, about people being behind the times - it's true only if by people you mean the oppressive majority, the ones who run the institutions and have the keys to the gates
posted by runt at 6:23 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


Man, I thought nothing could make the Best Album Grammy going to Bruno Mars over DAMN. look any sillier and out of touch, but here we go.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 6:49 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


sio42: This reminds me a bit of when I first found out opera was initially considered declasse and gauche. It wasn't always tuxes and fancy binoculars.

And jazz wasn't always for "intellectuals" -- "jas" was a dirty word you couldn't say in front of ladies. And as noted in The History of Jazz by Ted Gioia, "the most forceful creative currents in this society came from the African-American underclass," which in this case is a reference to the origins of jazz in New Orleans, but could also be applied to hip-hop and rap. And that puts the music at odds with the self-proclaimed gatekeepers of Decorum and Proper Culture.

This reminds me of two recent episodes of Atlanta, one where Donald Glover in whiteface (of a sort) states "Rap. There's a funny one. I found it never quite grew out of its adolescence." And earlier this season, a white mother films herself crying, reading rap lyrics, which leads to this -- "Hey! Oh, boy, I can't believe that single went gold already. Yo, that white woman crying, that was the best thing that could've happened to us, man."

In other words, I'd like to think that Donald would appreciate this particular moment.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:22 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Where's Kool Keith's Pulitzer? - @Don.Kinsayder, you can call 1-800-PP5-1DooDoo to register your complaints.
posted by GamblingBlues at 7:29 AM on April 17 [7 favorites]


It has just blown up classical/new music spheres--this Twitter feed, New Music Drama, is frankly hysterical

I realize that a feed called "New Music Drama" has a certain remit, but pointers to the new music people celebrating the award would be great for my blood pressure (and my sense that 100% of the new music people I know are celebrating it).
posted by kenko at 7:58 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]




I wonder if she'd be as happy if she had lost last year. Like, was Angel's Bone better than Coloring Book?
posted by gwint at 8:05 AM on April 17


I could't be more pleased if I were twins.

I'm not even sure this is my favorite album of his, but it is more densely packed than Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City or To Pimp A Butterfly, so I can understand why this one is favored.

Long live King Kendrick!
posted by pwinn at 8:32 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


He's two-fifths of the way to PEGOT'ing.
posted by doctornecessiter at 10:37 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


ok I have not really checked out Kendrick Lamar before but I am listening to this now and duly impressed. he's very talented and I love the complex layering of so many styles, sounds, references. very rich and well worth the recognition!!

as an art-type person I too have long felt frustrated by the guardians of the high road and their arbitrary denial of status to that which they do not deem deserving. art is about busting down walls and boundaries!!
posted by supermedusa at 10:56 AM on April 17


I would assume the Venn circles of "studious aficionados of classic music" and "people ready to go full volume white panic on twitter" are not very overlapped

That's very definitely not something I would assume. I suspect it's true a lot of people who had no idea about the music Pulitzer are getting in on the action, though.
posted by atoxyl at 11:10 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


FEAR is heartbreaking..
posted by supermedusa at 11:20 AM on April 17


supermedusa: as an art-type person I too have long felt frustrated by the guardians of the high road and their arbitrary denial of status to that which they do not deem deserving. art is about busting down walls and boundaries!!

Joe Coscarelli pulled back the curtain a bit on the nomination and selection process that lead to this pick in his article for the New York Times:
David Hajdu, one of the music jurors this year and a critic for The Nation, said that the group considered more than 100 compositions, including “some pieces of classical music that drew upon hip-hop as a resource,” leading to a philosophical discussion among the jurors about what could be considered.

“That led us to put on the table the fact that this sphere of work” — rap music — “has value on its own terms and not just as a resource for use in a field that is more broadly recognized by the institutional establishment as serious or legitimate,” he said.

When someone mentioned Mr. Lamar’s “DAMN.,” there was “quite a lot of enthusiasm for it,” Mr. Hajdu said, though some members of the jury were less familiar with hip-hop than others. (The jury also included the violinist Regina Carter; Paul Cremo of the Met Opera commissioning program; Farah Jasmine Griffin, a Columbia professor of English and African-American studies; and the composer David Lang.)

“But we listened to it and there was zero dissent,” Mr. Hajdu said. “A lively and constructive conversation, but no dissent.”

He added: “It was a beautiful moment. I left the deliberations on a cloud.”
Emphasis mine, because supermedusa, you're not alone in your thoughts on art.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:52 AM on April 17 [12 favorites]


I do think he has... probably two albums that are better than this one. But this one is pretty good.
posted by atoxyl at 12:47 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


And here I thought they gave it to DAMN this year so they could give it to the Black Panther soundtrack next year and not look like the bunch of raving fanboys they are.
posted by persona at 3:50 AM on April 19


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