Kendrick's Pulitzer peers are happy he won for DAMN.
Kendrick Lamar's Pulitzer win in the category of Music is an unprecedented victory for hip hop, and ranks pretty high on his trophy case. The category is usually dominated by Contemporary classical composers, for the studious nature of their learning process. Not only are attitudes changing with regards to how culture has become more inclusionary, but hip hop is beginning to figure in the conversation of great lyricism within elitist circles. These issues are endemically tied to liberal values and racial constructs, but few would argue that Kendrick is not deserving of his prize. Opening the criteria to include hip hop in the conversation is a logical step.
It appears the two other nominees, Michael Gilbertson and Ted Hearne agree wholeheartedly with that sentiment, are and proud to have placed in the runner-up position next to Lamar. Gilbertson feels that broadening the category to include musicians of other persuasions makes the Pulitzer a less "narrow honor." He also feels therein lies an opportunity for cross-disciplinary collaborations such as when violinist Caroline Shaw followed up her Pulitzer victory by working with Kanye West. Both finalists are low-key fans of Kendrick's work even though they don't rave about it in their respective circles.
Hearne who received a nomination for Sound From the Bench, still considers classical music spaces and audiences as the looking glass for the award. He never-the-less is hopeful that "nonwhite people and nonwhite artists" can receive acknowledgement they are due for pushing creative boundaries in the United States. The idea is to grant "Jazz" and "hip hop" the respect they undeniably deserve as gross cultural exports. Kendrick has imparted both of those American traditions in his music like no other. Back up and bow, 'nuff respect due.