NEW YORK — Jay-Z is the leader of the 2018 Grammy Award nominations in a year where the top four categories are heavily dominated by rap and R&B artists, giving the often overlooked genres a strong chance of winning big.
The Recording Academy announced Tuesday that Jay-Z is nominated for eight honors, including album, song, and record of the year. Bruno Mars is also nominated for the big three, while Kendrick Lamar — who earned seven nominations — and Childish Gambino are also up for major awards.
Jay-Z's personal and revealing album, "4:44," is nominated for album of the year alongside Mars' 90s-inspired R&B adventure "24K Magic," Lamar's hard-hitting rap masterpiece "DAMN.," Gambino's funk-soul project "Awaken My Love!" and Lorde's critically acclaimed pop album, "Melodrama."
Record of the year nominees include Jay-Z's "The Story of O.J.," a song about blackness and managing money that also references O.J. Simpson; Mars' Top 5 hit, "24K Magic"; Lamar's No. 1 smash, "Humble"; Gambino's "Redbone," which peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100; and the year's biggest hit, "Despacito," by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber.
"Despacito" is also nominated for song of the year — a songwriter's award — along with Mars' No. 1 hit, "That's What I Like"; the title track from Jay-Z's "4:44"; rapper Logic's suicide prevention anthem, "1-800-273-8255"; and "Issues" by Julia Michaels, the singer who has written hits for Bieber, Selena Gomez and other pop stars.
Michaels is also nominated for best new artist, where R&B and rap rule again: Her competition includes singers SZA, Khalid and Alessia Cara, as well as rapper Lil Uzi Vert.
No rock or country acts were nominated in the top four categories. The rap- and R&B-heavy nominations, which include numerous black and Latino artists, come after the Grammys were criticized earlier this year when some felt Beyonce's multi-genre "Lemonade" album should have won album of the year over Adele's "25." Adele also expressed that Beyonce should have received the prize.
The win for Adele, though, marked another year when the Grammys awarded its biggest prizes to an artist outside of the rap or R&B genre. Kanye West, Eminem, Mariah Carey and others have also lost in the top categories over the years to pop, rock and country acts despite owning the year in music, critically and commercially.
"We have a current membership that is savvy and certainly timely, is current, and reflective of what music is about today and in the future. And clearly the diversification work that we've done for our membership is evident in all of the nominations this year," Neil Portnow, the academy's president and CEO, said in an interview. "I think it's a testimony to our hard work and intention of having a very vibrant, current, relevant, diverse voting membership."
Jay-Z or Lamar could make history next year when the Grammys take place in New York City on Jan. 28, 2018: Either album could become only the third rap-based album to win album of the year; and either song could become the first in the rap genre to win record or song of the year.
"4:44," which includes songs about Jay-Z's relationship with Beyonce and family life, marks the rap icon's first nomination for album of the year as a lead artist; it is Lamar's third in the top category. Lamar will compete with Jay-Z in all seven categories he is nominated in, including best rap album, best rap song, best rap performance, best rap sung performance and best music video.