“His songs can go from discussing religion, to exploring his history with depression, and then shift to him making fun of how immature he was when he was a kid,” said Darrelyn Hughes, an attorney in Duluth. “You can dance, laugh, and cry when listening to a single Kendrick song.”
While other artists preen on social media and in frequent interviews, Lamar seems to like to let the songs speak. As with many popular but private artists, he can be misunderstood and run up against a problem encountered by musicians of any genre that inspires people to dance: sometimes people just want a good beat and simple words to make them forget their troubles.
All over the country, this was the reaction to Lamar’s 2012 hit, “Swimming Pools (Drank).” It had the good beat, but everyone didn’t listen close enough to the lyrics to realize the song is about losing yourself to the perils of abusing alcohol. Yet Phillips, the music journalist, heard the song at many clubs and house parties. Revelers would shout, “Pour up, drank, pour up, drank,” the ironic hook intended to inspire you to stop drinking.
Within a few years, Lamar was becoming less misunderstood, gaining recognition with a slew of awards.
But the Pulitzer? It was recognition from the nation’s highbrow scribes, given out by Columbia University, no less.
“It was one of those things I heard about in school,” Lamar told Time magazine, “but I never thought I’d be a part of it. (When I heard I got it), I thought, to be recognized in an academic world . . . whoa, this thing really can take me above and beyond.”
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