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Power, Beauty, and Journalism in Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA.”

Kendrick Lamar, shown sporting a T-Shirt with the name of his Pulitzer Prize winning album. PHOTO/ Wikimedia Commons
Kendrick Lamar, shown sporting a T-Shirt with the name of his Pulitzer Prize winning album. PHOTO/ Wikimedia Commons

By Milette Millington

Published: May 2nd, 2018

The Pulitzer Prize is bestowed upon individuals for achievements in newspaper, magazine, online journalism, literature, and musical composition. This year, the Pulitzer Prize for music was awarded to a rapper for the first time ever. Hip-hop sensation, Kendrick Lamar, received the award for his album “DAMN.” This was also the first time the award was given to a musician who does not perform jazz or classical.

Besides the win in musical composition for hip-hop, the album also constitutes a win for journalism as a whole. How is this the case? Allow me to elaborate.

According to the American Press Institute, journalism is defined as “the activity, as well as the production, of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” The Elements of Journalism: What Newspeople Should Know and the Public Should

Expect, written by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel, states, “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth; its first loyalty is to citizens. The essence is a discipline of verification, and practitioners must maintain independence from those they cover, serving as a monitor of power.”

In her article for the Huffington Post, Julia Craven says that the dissection of conceptual conflicts throughout the album such as “pride vs. humility, love vs. lust, fear vs. trust (mostly in God), individuality vs. conformity, and, as Lamar explores in the album’s conclusion, ‘me vs. me’ — are easily recognizable.” Lamar has the lyrical ability to paint a true picture of black life through words, capturing the essence of black life at its most minute.

In “DNA.,” Lamar says that the people around him influence his personality traits, saying, “I got power, poison, pain, and joy inside my DNA/I got hustle though, ambition flow inside my DNA,” addressing the unnecessary killing of young black people in this country.

Kendrick is speaking up against this issue while remembering lives such as those of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Sandra Bland, putting emphasis on the power that his voice has in his community.

In “LOVE.,” he discusses the deep personal bond that he has with his fiancé Whitney Alford, who he has been with since high school. In the chorus of the song he says, “I wanna be with you, ayy, I wanna be with/Just love me, just love me, just love/…Keep it a whole one hund’: don’t got you, I got nothin’.”

Lamar discussed the depth of his bond with Alford in a 2015 Billboard interview saying, “She’s been here since day one. I wouldn’t even call her my girl. That’s my best friend. I don’t even like the term that society has put in the world as far as being a companion—she’s somebody I can tell my fears to,” showing the true beauty that shines through in committed relationships, which I feel like the world needs more of today.

The song that embodies journalism is “LOYALTY.,” featuring Rihanna. The lines that embody the principle of loyalty to citizens in journalism are: “I put my lyric and my lifeline on the line/And ain’t no limit when I might shine, might grind.” The lyrical analysis on Genius.com noted what Kendrick said in a February 2016 interview about his 11 nominations for the Grammy Awards that year, “Speaking on things that I feel like people don’t have voices can speak on.” What this means, is speaking for those who are afraid to speak about issues that affect them directly.

I believe that the album was well worth a Pulitzer because it not only addresses those journalistic principles mentioned above, but it also contains a strong amount of creativity. Its relatability and personal connectedness in minority communities is prevalent in today’s world, highlighting issues that affect those who live in them on a daily basis.

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