NEW YORK: Jay-Z led Grammy nominations Tuesday with eight nods, followed closely by fellow rapper Kendrick Lamar with seven, in a striking embrace of hip-hop for the music industry’s top prizes.
Jay-Z, who had never before been nominated in a major category as a solo artist, is up for Album of the Year for his “4:44” as well as for Record of the Year and Song of the Year.
“4:44” marked a return to music by the 47-year-old Jay-Z after years focused on business ventures.
The album put on display an unusually vulnerable Jay-Z who acknowledged his infidelity to wife Beyonce, explored his mother’s closet life as a lesbian and tackled the state of US race relations.
Bruno Mars, the fun-loving funk revivalist, also fared well with six nominations including Album of the Year for his “24K Magic.”
“Despacito,” the viral hit that tied for the most weeks ever on top of the US singles chart despite being in Spanish, was nominated both for Record of the Year, which recognizes the overall performance, and Song of the Year, which honors the songwriter.
The Recording Academy, which consists of more than 13,000 music professionals, will vote to decide the winners who will be unveiled at the annual Grammys gala on January 28.
The ceremony will take place in New York, Jay-Z’s hometown, to mark the awards’ 60th edition after 14 years in Los Angeles.
The industry was already set to honor Jay-Z at the pre-Grammy party thrown by music executive Clive Davis.
Hip-hop’s emergence as a major force at the Grammys comes after years of criticism about how little the entertainment industry recognizes African American artists.
In the past, only two rap-dominated albums have won Album of the Year.
Two years ago, Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” — a widely acclaimed album that featured an unofficial anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement — controversially lost to Taylor Swift’s “1989.”
And last year, Adele expressed embarrassment over winning Album of the Year over Beyonce’s experimental and narrative-rich “Lemonade.”
This time, Swift was only nominated in minor categories, although her chart-topping new album “Reputation” came out too late for consideration for Album of the Year.
Ed Sheeran, another favorite for Grammy glory, was also shut out in the major categories.
Among other rappers, Childish Gambino — the stage-name of comedian Donald Glover who infuses funk and psychedelic R&B into his hip-hop — is up for Album of the Year and Record of the Year.