April 16, 2018, the music of rapper Kendrick Lamar Duckworth went down in the pages of posterity in a blaze of glory when the artist became the first pop star to win the prominent Pulitzer Prize for Music. The 30-year-old Compton, Calif. craftsman received the honor for his fourth studio album, 2017’s “Damn.”

“I thought it was a momentous, very deserved honor for a young brilliant lyricist,” said 58-year-old Brooklyn-bred hip-hop cultural engineer, Fab 5 Freddy. “I think 20 years or so ago, it would’ve been good if they gave it to Chuck D from Public Enemy for having spoken up and speaking out so forcefully for people fighting against the system or fighting the power.”

Natalie Desrosiers, a writer working with the African-American literary collective, Cave Canem, is fully aware of the Pulitzer’s “significance in the dominant, high-culture art world.”

The 21-year-old Queens resident was interviewed to record the resonance of Lamar’s unprecedented achievement. “It has propelled the careers of many artists, whether they be writers, journalists, musicians, and they are often awarded to artists and journalists whose careers are already established,” said Desrosiers.

She also pointed to the prize’s longevity as a cultural beacon, the significance of its existence for more than 100 years, and how within the entirety of that time, it has never awarded its musical honors to a pop artist. “For that prize particularly, it’s historical,” said Desrosiers. “In the entire history of the Pulitzer Prize for Music, there’s never been a hip-hop artist awarded. Every musician that has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize since the prize has been inaugurated has been in genre of classical music or opera, or there’s been a few jazz artists awarded… It’s a very white-washed prize.”

Indeed, since Wynton Marsalis’ “Blood on the Fields” won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for Music, there have only been two other jazz winners: Ornette Coleman, the father of “free jazz,” in 2007 for “Sound Grammar” and Henry Threadgill in 2016 for “In for a Penny, in for a Pound.” For the most part, the award has remained within what Desrosiers described as “Western” and mainstream media has classified as the “European classical tradition.” Lamar receiving this “reputable” reverence has been described as a watershed moment on par with 2016’s bestowal of the Nobel Prize for Literature upon songwriter Bob Dylan, a 2008 Pulitzer Prize Special Citation and Awards winner.

Although Freddy laments people’s poets of yesteryear being overlooked for Pulitzer’s literary love, the cultural purveyor does see credible parallels in the impact of Lamar’s music meritorious of hallowed prize recipient status. He notes how Lamar’s work became a soundtrack for “the struggle.”

“A couple of years ago as Black bodies gunned down by police laid in streets—Philando Castile, Mike Brown—just too many,” recalled Freddy, “at a Black Lives Matter protest, I never forget the first time I heard a crowd chanting ‘We gon’ be all right!’ It was great. I have been waiting for artists to step up to have some of those marching songs for those protestors.”

But are prestigious prizes for poetic protest songs enough? “There have been a lot more Black artists that are gaining recognition, a lot more awards in the dominant art world, but the economic conditions over the last few years are still in a dire state,” said Desrosiers. “So there’s this huge distance between how Black artists are being represented— that we’re publishing books or getting accolades and awards left and right, but there hasn’t been any socio-economic change.”

The creator of The Source, 49-year-old music media maven and D.C. native, Dave Mays, expresses similar sentiments. “It’s a seminal moment, it is an earmark as far as where hip-hop has come, where it is,” said Mays of the win.

But Mays wants more for the masses. “It’s also a sign that now is a time of great opportunity for those who love hip-hop,” he continued. “We have to be smarter about ownership and control and independence when it comes to our business in the digital age. As someone who lived through that time in hip-hop 30 years ago, when N.W.A’s ‘F— the Police’ and Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ were speaking on conditions that have persisted up until present day, I think the new generation has to seize the power to ensure real change going forward.”

Ultimately, Freddy feels that primarily because of a lack of clear cultural connections, awe over awards is flagrantly flawed. “I sometimes think that we put too much emphasis on winning a Grammy, and what that means,” he said. “But when you look through the history, especially as far as hip-hop, some of our greatest, like Rakim, like Nas, like JAY-Z, have not been awarded, sometimes not at all, and definitely not appropriately.”

He pointed to last year’s snub of JAY-Z’s album “4:44,” which had eight nominations, as indicative of this disconnect. “It clearly shows that organizations like the Grammys are essentially wack,” said Freddy.

Freddy cites the initial awarding of the rap Grammy in 1989 as an example of when mainstream institutions get hip-hop wrong, but doesn’t see Lamar’s award in this light. He endorses Pulitzer judges’ selection of Lamar. “For an organization like the Pulitzer, who clearly have some young blood in the mix trying to revitalize their brand [to] acknowledge somebody who I think is very deserving, who has figured out a way to be conscious, to be relevant, and at the same time sell a whole lot of records, is really impressive,” said Freddy.

New York radio DJ Spazo of Hot 97 concurs with Freddy’s assessment of Lamar finding the right balance between culture and commerce in his craft. “He definitely deserves that award,” said the 30-something Harlem native, and son of Wop wizard, B-Fats. “Kendrick has put in a tremendous body of work. And now for him to get that award, it’s just a bright future for him.” Spazo points out that an exceptionally rare four recordings from “Damn” are in Hot 97’s regular rotation.

Why the award has found its way into the hands of not only a pop artist but also a rap music artist at that, and why at this time, remains cause for speculation. Some, such as Freddy, suggest that the stuffed shirts who decide the distribution loosened up their collars a bit when presenting the prize.

“I really feel like the people behind the Pulitzer Prize are catching up the times,” said Desrosiers. Others, such as Spazo, see the award as a golden opportunity for the culture and to gain momentum and capitalize upon. “He already cracked the door open,” said Spazo of Lamar’s win, “it’s just up to whoever the next artist may be to kick the door down.”

Although many bear no malice to the music maker, some question the motives of those who moved to make Lamar Pulitzer’s musical maverick. Based on historical references, they see something far bigger and more insidious at play, and within the embrace of Lamar by such a lofty institution as the Pulitzer Prize, they see an ominous sign.

“Kendrick’s Pulitzer, which is to be congratulated, signifies the usurpation of our art form by the elite imitating a resurgence of the modernist movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which, among other philosophical and anti-enlightenment ideas, began to embrace the common and practical art form over the high-brow and transcendent subculture over mainstream, ultimately resulting in the usurpation of the subculture as the property of the elite, ergo, jazz!” said Tasha Mabry, a 47-year-old music industry vet currently residing in Brooklyn.

Mabry continued, “This nod from the elite is a double-edged sword. By simultaneously celebrating his music as the best of the ‘lowbrow,’ it is no longer subculture, but mainstream with the acknowledgement as such by the elite. It is no longer the art form of a minority and subculture, from which the richness of the art itself sprang. It is now the property of the elite— mainstream.”

Mabry concluded, “It has been embraced by them and digested. What they regurgitate will not be what we created in the parks of the Bronx or nurtured in the streets of Queens and Brooklyn, but will continue to reflect the images and ideals of the mainstream. And our children’s children will debate white children over who created hip-hop, just like they debate the origins of jazz.”