Picture three torchbearers of hip-hop converging one day, each in their own pocket, to light up your life for just a moment. That’s what occurred this past Monday (April 16). Surprise announcements piled up, and each artist lets us have a moment in their own special way.
Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize, y’all. And it’s arguably of the most important, most improbable kind of awards for a hip-hop artist to win. See, it’s never happened before. The Pulitzer is what you think about when you talk about authors or poets, critics or essayists. In the music category, classical or jazz usually win out, if only because the canon has yet to catch up to the times. But this year was different. K. Dot’s oeuvre includes three classic albums in a row if you’re conservative—four if you’re a real fan— and it speaks volumes that he was recognized for DAMN. Dana Canedy, the Pulitzers administrator, spoke about the achievement in an interview: “The time was right,” she said. “We are very proud of this selection. It means that the jury and the board judging system worked as it’s supposed to—the best work was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.” She went on: “It shines a light on hip-hop in a completely different way. This is a big moment for hip-hop music and a big moment for the Pulitzers.” Perhaps it was the TDE label boss that said it best, though:
But the day before Tax Day had more in store than any of us expected. Rumblings of J. Cole having a surprise concert at Gramercy Theatre in New York City left fans scrambling. He performed a ton of new songs and eventually announced that they were tracks from his next album. Called KOD, Cole put the announcement for the secret listening up on Twitter just a few hours before he showed up on stage. In the era of the surprise drop, this was more than welcome. And, he’s not done. Today, he’s doing another listening at a secret location. The album drops on 4/20.
Then, as if not to be outdone, Drake also announced he was coming out with a new album. Draped in a black jacket on Instagram, Drizzy let it out that the album will be coming in June after dropping three loose tracks that have already taken the world and the charts by storm.
Music critic Craig Jenkins called “Nice For What” an “act of image reform” in an article for Vulture. He went on to ask some important questions: “Is Drake just falling in line with pop’s unspoken wokeness mandate, or is he genuinely interested in change? Does it even matter if the product feels good and gracious? I’m not so sure anymore.” We’re not sure either, but we are chomping at the bit.