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 U.S. Recording Academy announced Tuesday that Jay-Z is nominated for eight honours, 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.

Alessia Cara

Canadian Alessia Cara picked up a couple of nods in the top categories, including for best new artist. (Chris Pizzello/The Associated Press)

Canadian singers Alessia Cara and Justin Bieber are also among nominees in the top four categories.

Jay-Z's personal and revealing album, 4:44, is nominated for album of the year alongside:

  • Mars's '90s-inspired R&B adventure 24K Magic.
  • Lamar's hard-hitting rap masterpiece DAMN.
  • Gambino's funk-soul project Awaken My Love! 
  • 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's Top 5 hit, 24K Magic. 
  • Lamar's No. 1 smash, Humble.
  • Gambino's Redbone, which peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100.
  • The year's biggest hit, Despacito,by Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Bieber.
Grammy Awards Nominations

Childish Gambino is the music industry stage name of Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Donald Glover, who scored 5 Grammy nominations. (Charles Sykes/Invision/Associated Press)

Despacito is also nominated for song of the year — a songwriter's award — along with:

  • Mars's 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, featuring Cara.
  • 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 Cara, as well as rapper Lil Uzi Vert.

Grammy Awards Nominations

SZA scored 5 Grammy nominations, including for best new artist. (Matt Sayles/Invision/Associated Press)

Diverse artists come to the fore

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 Beyoncé's multi-genre Lemonade album should have won album of the year over Adele's 25

Note: strong language in following video

In her acceptance speech as well as when speaking to reporters backstage, Adele also expressed that Beyoncé 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.

'Clearly the diversification work that we've done for our membership is evident in all of the nominations this year.' - Neil Portnow, Recording Academy president

"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."

MTV VMAs-Nominations

Critically acclaimed rapper Kendrick Lamar earned seven nominations, including his third for album of the year. (Amy Harris/Invision/Associated Press)

The album 4:44, which includes songs about Jay-Z's relationship with Beyoncé 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.

American Music Awards

Bruno Mars is a top nominee for his latest, 24K Magic. ( Matt Sayles/Invision/The Associated Press)

Mars is behind Jay-Z and Lamar with six nominations, including best R&B album, best R&B song and best R&B performance. Gambino, better known as Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actor Donald Glover, scored five nominations.

Others who earned five nominations include SZA, Khalid and No I.D., who produced Jay-Z's album and is up for non-classical producer of the year.

Sheeran, Lady Gaga among pop nominees

Ed Sheeran, who has the second-best selling album of the year with Divide, was snubbed in the top categories. Divide earned a nomination for best pop vocal album, while his No. 1 hit, Shape of You, is up for best pop solo performance.

Nominees for best pop vocal album include Lady Gaga's Joanne, Coldplay's five-song EP Kaleidoscope, Evolve by Imagine Dragons, Lana Del Rey's Lust for Life and Kesha's Rainbow, marking her first Grammy nomination. Kesha, who has been in a legal war with former mentor and producer Dr. Luke, is also nominated for best pop solo performance for Praying.

cohen in spain

Canadian singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is among the posthumous Grammy nominees. (Eloy Alonso/Reuters)

Leonard Cohen and Chris Cornell are both nominated for best rock performance; other deceased nominees include Glen Campbell, Gregg Allman and Carrie Fisher, who is nominated for best spoken word album, where Bernie Sanders, Mark Ruffalo and Bruce Springsteen are also nominated.

In the country categories, Chris Stapleton leads with three nominations. Miranda Lambert, who earned two nominations, was surprisingly shut out of best country album though her double album, The Weight of These Wings, was a critical favourite.

Others who earned multiple nominations include Pharrell, Ledisi, Nothing More, Alison Krauss, Daniel Caesar and Foo Fighters. Randy Newman's song Putin, his sardonic ode to Russian President Vladimir Putin, is nominated for best arrangement, instruments and vocals.

Taylor Swift

Though Taylor Swift didn't pick up any nods for her latest single Look What You Made Me Do, she earned nominations for co-writing Little Big Town's Better Man and for her Zayn collaboration I Don't Wanna Live Forever. (Taylor Swift/YouTube)

Taylor Swift, who didn't earn nominations for her single Look What You Made Me Do — released before the Grammy cutoff date — did earn a nod for best country song for writing Little Big Town's No. 1 hit, Better Man. Swift is also nominated for best song written for visual media for I Don't Wanna Live Forever, her collaboration with Zayn from the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. Her new album, reputation, will qualify for nominations at the 2019 Grammys.

Cardi B, who had one of the year's biggest hits with Bodak Yellow (Money Moves), earned two nominations: best rap song and best rap performance. Another female rapper scored nominations, too: Rapsody is up for best rap song for Sassy and best rap album for Laila's Wisdom. In the latter category, she will compete with Jay-Z, Lamar, Migos and Tyler, the Creator. Snubs include Future, J. Cole and DJ Khaled, who has two of the year's biggest hits with Wild Thoughts and I'm the One.

Paving the way for a historic win?

Jay-Z or Lamar could make history next year when the Grammys take place in New York City on Jan. 28: 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.

Albums and songs eligible in the 84 categories at the 60th annual Grammys had to be released between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017.

This year is the first year the Grammys used online voting for its main awards show; it started online voting for the Latin Grammys last year.