WHAT’S that noise I hear? Is it the sound of an expensive nibbed pen scratching a loud tick in the Diversity Inclusion box – or the scrunching of a sixtysomething head being cranked hard in the direction of modern culturalism?

The cranial clattering has come about on learning rapper Kendrick Lamar has been awarded this year’s Pulitzer Prize for Music, an award associated with high art forms such as opera. Sorry, rap music? Isn’t rap, at best, a sorry stream of semi-literate consciousness, or at worst, a collection of nonsensical lines that barely rhyme, with all the cultural merit of Wee Willie Winkie?

And how can rap have cultural relevance if it has little shelf life? The hate lyrics, for example, have seen it buried professionaly like so many of the gangstas who practised it; Ice T, Ice Cube . . . In fact, anyone related to frozen water has melted in the increased heat of relevance. Fifty Cent is now worth tuppence. Eminem? Didn’t he used to be called Treets?

Now, to be honest, I didn’t know Kendrick Lamar from Hedy Lamaar but on reading his work this award seems contentious. His penultimate album was entitled To Pimp A Butterfly, which may indeed be a very clever metaphor but it will take someone cleverer than me to work out what.

Live Aid: Feeding the world and the giant egos at work

The Pultizer committee says Kendrick’s latest album Damn offers “affecting vignettes of modern African American life.” I don’t know about that. The most poignant lyric seems to be the song Pride, reflecting his confusions with materialism. “Hell-raising, wheel-chasing, new worldy possessions. Flesh-making, spirit-breaking, which one would you lessen.”

But his songs, it seems, are little more than a lucky bag of disparate ideas, high school-level social complaint megaphoned out of a very rich gold-chained throat.

Of course, most liberal critics aren’t going to say the writing is pretentious. The likes of Zachary Woolfe, the classical music critic of the New York Times, praises Damn for its “complexity and sensitivity, its seductive confidence and unity, its dense weaving of the personal and political, the religious and sexual.” Well, Lamar is certainly writing about the world he sees around him but couldn’t we say the same in Scotland about Limmy? What if McGonagal had been around today, would his poetry, such as his paean to Sunlight soap “You can use it with great pleasure and ease – without wasting any elbow grease” push him onto the top cultural podium?

But now we’re into the debate about high and low art. And you wonder if the prize-givers are trying to circumscribe the very idea of quality? Are they trying to suggest opera is no longer more culturally valuable than pop music? This is a tricky path to go down because fashions change. Daniel Defoe, for example, was once seen as a bit dodgy, yet became a proponent of the modern novel. Dickens was considered a unswerving populist, producing serials for newspapers. And many snooty critics since have suggested were he alive today he’d be writing for EastEnders, (which of course is absurd because Albert Square could never cater for characters such as Mr Beedlebottom or Mrs Pantsonfire.)

High and low culture? Who is right when you recall Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize for Literature last year, which caused a stooshie. “Lay lady lay, lay across my big brass bed,” may have acutely summed up man’s sexual imaginations but doesn’t quite compare with Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath.

Now, it’s fair to acknowledge the Pulitzer Prize judges have to be seen to move forward, to shine a light on newer cultural forms, and that’s probably why the Drama award of 2016 was also an eyebrow raiser, going to hip hop musical Hamilton.

Sir Michael Parkinson: When I first met The Beatles, McCartney asked for my autograph

But over the years there is no consistency. The judges ignored jazz (even Duke Ellington) until 1997, yet they deemed yodelling Hank Williams worthy in 2010, (posthumously), for writing lyrical content largely featuring death, divorce and dead dogs.

Yes, perhaps Damn is damned good at reaching out to a young, vibrant audience desperate to wallow in the complexities of modern African-American life. However, perhaps we should assume these awards are essentially mince. When the composer John Adams won in 2003 he said he greeted the news with “ambivalence bordering on contempt” because “it ignored the country’s greatest musical minds” in favour of academic music. But define “greatest musical minds.”

These awards have to be greeted with ambivalence because the judges’ decisions are screamingly subjective and the assessment criteria so inconsistent. The Pulitzers are a prop of self-sustainment. These prizes, it seems, are about keeping it controversial, keeping the media indignant, keeping those easily offended on the trigger.

Live Aid: Feeding the world and the giant egos at work

Athough if the judges were to consider biographies of Mrs Brown and Stanley Baxter by a certain journalist as searing, multi-layered insights into contemporary life as “powerful” as the work of Mr Lamar then that would be another thing altogether.