Fans and critics were already galvanized by Kendrick Lamar's 2017 album DAMN. - but on April 16, 2018, just over a year after its release, it did something that no hip-hop album ever did: win a Pulitzer Prize for Music.
The award, one of the most distinguished, was typically bestowed upon classical works (with notable exceptions for jazz musicians like Wynton Marsalis in 1997 and Ornette Coleman in 2007). But DAMN., honored as the best album of the year by multiple publications and a Grammy Award winner for Best Rap Album, broke through in a major way that captured the attention of even more listeners.
When presenting the award a month later, the committee hailed the album as "a virtuosic song collection unified by a vernacular authenticity that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life." In other words: pure hip-hop excellence.