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What Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Means for Hip-Hop

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Kendrick Lamar has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2017 album, “DAMN.” Lamar is the first rapper to win a Pulitzer, and “DAMN.” is the first hip-hop composition to be honored since the establishment of the music prize in 1943.

In a refreshing change of pace, could it be that the Pulitzer is the award to make the Grammys obsolete in terms of acknowledging master works of art echoing the tones of a group of people misheard by the white privileged? Lamar’s historic win boldly shapes an incision of blackness within elite spaces and begs the question: What does this mean for hip-hop music?

Perhaps it means the world might finally be catching up to rap. The Pulitzer is known for rewarding classical and, occasionally, jazz compositions. A choice that has topped the pop charts and resonated so widely is as overdue as it is unexpected. The Pulitzer board deemed the album “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”

Truth of the matter is that hip-hop has historically been one of the ways for black Americans to see a reflection of their own lives in mainstream art. Akil Houston, a hip-hop scholar and assistant professor at the University of Ohio, says: “Rap was the black community’s CNN.”

For example, N.W.A became famous for not holding back about what it was like to be young, black and terrorized by the police. Ice Cube even referred to himself as a journalist “reporting on his community.”

More recently, Lamar has connected his honest experiences growing up in Compton with a successful purgative, venting style of rap. His chilling video for “Alright” shows a black teen lying dead in the street, another running from a Klan-like group, and officers slamming one more to the ground. Lamar performed the song on top of a graffiti-covered squad car at the 2015 BET Awards. Despite his mainstream success, Lamar still keeps his music authentic, mirroring the lens through which sees the world.  In “The Heart, Party 4,” a pre-album track from “Damn,” Lamar wrote, “Donald Trump is a chump, know how we feel, punk / Tell ’em that God comin’ / And Russia need a replay button, y’all up to something,” keeping the consistency of his emotions from suppressive, sometimes even political, outrage.

It seems the world is less blinded by the ability for complex, multi-layered work to come from less-traditional outlets. Perhaps each art form just has to pay its dues in culture and prove an impact can outlast the trend of one generation. Maybe now society is more inclined to attempt to understand others through their art. Whatever the case may be, Lamar is the soundtrack for youth culture outraged by the Trump era, where police brutality still sees no consequences and harmless black men are arrested while waiting for their friend in a Starbucks. And the echoes of offense are creating art resonating far beyond the streets of Compton. We all feel Lamar’s resentment and it’s leaving us shook as we take a look at where we are and where we are headed as a culture.

Pop Culture

Eeeeooowwww! Cardi B Just Shattered Two of Beyonce’s Biggest Records

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Cardi B has her finger on the pulse of her success. Fresh off her debut album drop, a Saturday Night Live pregnancy reveal, a special co-hosting gig on The Tonight Show and a Coachella performance that was straight fire, the 25-year-old is finding new ways to outdo herself. This time, she shattered two of Beyonce’s Guinness World Records. Truth.

The Invasion of Privacy rapper now holds the titles for most simultaneous Billboard Hot 100 entries by a female and the most simultaneous Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Top 10 entries by a female. (Get it, Cardi B!)

Queen Bey previously held the title with 12 tracks all charting at the same time following the release of Lemonade in 2016. Cardi B now has 13. Eeeeooowwww!

So, Nicki Minaj, what’s good?

On another note, Cardi B’s rise is bustling beyond Friday night playlists, too. Even Bernie Sanders is a fan. Cardi recently weight in on Social Security during an interview with GQ, telling the mag she felt President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was “the real ‘Make America Great Again,’ because if it wasn’t for him, old people wouldn’t even get Social Security.”

Sanders tweeted about it.

So again, Nicki, what’s good?

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Avicii Is Dead at 28, Here’s What We Know

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Swedish artist, DJ and producer Avicii, real name Tim Bergling, died April 20 according to a statement from his rep. He was 28.

“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii,” the statement reads. “He was found dead in Muscat, Oman this Friday afternoon local time, April 20th.  The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time. No further statements will be given.”

Avicii retired from live performing in 2016, citing health reasons. He had suffered from health problems for several years, including acute pancreatitis, in part due to excessive drinking. He had his gallbladder and appendix removed in 2014.

Last year, Avicii posted the following message to his website:

“WE ALL REACH A POINT IN OUR LIVES AND CAREERS WHERE WE UNDERSTAND WHAT MATTERS THE MOST TO US.
For me it’s creating music. That is what I live for, what I feel I was born to do.

Last year I quit performing live, and many of you thought that was it. But the end of live never meant the end of Avicii or my music. Instead, I went back to the place where it all made sense – the studio.

The next stage will be all about my love of making music to you guys. It is the beginning of something new.

Hope you´ll enjoy it as much as I do.”

Gone too soon, his music will live on for generations. Here’s one of Better than the Weekend’s favorite Avicii hits from back in the day, blasting all day in honor of his contribution to music.

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MTV Is Bringing Back ‘YO! MTV Raps’ In a Big Way

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Thirty years after its premiere on MTV, “YO! MTV Raps” legacy continues to have a lasting influence on hip-hop and pop culture.  To celebrate this milestone anniversary, MTV will reinvent the franchise for a new generation as a both a linear and digital series across its platforms. To kick things off, show alumni, artists and fans will gather for the “YO! MTV Raps: 30th Anniversary Experience” on Friday, June 1st at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, which will be live streamed by MTV.

After its debut on August 6th, 1988, “YO! MTV Raps” became the premiere source for all things hip-hop.  The advent of the series was crucial to the rise of hip-hop, and created a worldwide appreciation of the genre, which has since become one of the most influential in mainstream music.

The “YO! MTV Raps: 30th Anniversary Experience” will bring together an all-star line-up of the series’ alumni and hip-hop legends including Big Daddy Kane and the Juice Crew, Eric B & Rakim, Doug E. Fresh, KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions, Fat Joe, Yo-Yo, Onyx, EPMD, Flavor Flav, YBT Tap the bottle reunion, Black Sheep, DAS EFX, Special Ed, Pharcyde, Brand Nubian, Nice & Smooth, Melle Mel & The Furious Five, Kid Capri, DJ Skribble, Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, Fab 5 Freddy, Ed Lover, Doctor Dré, T-Money and others for a night to remember.

The event will also feature special tribute videos from Eminem, Method Man, Redman and more.

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