Hip-hop cuts comprise two-fifths of the Record Of The Year nominations for the 60th GRAMMY Awards: Jay-Z's bold "The Story Of O.J." and Kendrick Lamar's edgy "HUMBLE." If one of these win, it would mark the first time a hip-hop track took the award in GRAMMY history.
Rounding out the eclectic mix in this year's field are Childish Gambino's soul-inflected "Redbone"; Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber's crossover smash, "Despacito"; and Bruno Mars' golden hit, "24K Magic."
Here's a closer look at this year's Record Of The Year nominees:
"Redbone," Childish Gambino
With its sturdy groove, funky bass and synth-laden production, "Redbone" bleeds with vintage R&B touches and modern flourishes. On top, Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) turns in a sexy falsetto-based vocal that recalls '80s Prince and screams — literally — with timeless soul.
"I think people hear "Redbone" and are like, 'Oh, he pitched up his vocals,' but there was no vocal pitching on the album — I just sang differently," Glover told Triple J's "Breakfast" radio program.
"Redbone" was produced by Childish Gambino and collaborator Ludwig Göransson, who plays various instruments on the track, including bass, guitar and synthesizer.
Childish Gambino has five current nominations. His other four are for Album Of The Year and Best Urban Contemporary Album for "Awaken, My Love!" and Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for "Redbone."
Childish Gambino has two prior GRAMMY nominations to his credit. This marks his first career nod for Record Of The Year.
"Despacito," Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
It's the jam you could not escape this past summer: "Despacito." Fonsi, Daddy Yankee and Bieber's collab spent a record-tying 16 weeks at No. 1. And the song is fresh from winning four Latin GRAMMY Awards, including the remix taking Best Urban Fusion/Performance.
"'Despacito' started with a melody hook that I had with my guitar only," Fonsi told Billboard. "The beat for this track came after I wrote the lyrics, which I wrote as if I was writing a ballad. I sat with my guitar and started this cumbia pattern with my guitar."
Co-produced by Josh Gudwin, Mauricio Rengifo & Andrés Torres, "Despacito" — which translates to "Slowly" — flowered into a lush track propelled by an infectious rhythm and augmented by steel drums, classical and acoustic guitars, and multilingual vocal hooks galore.
Fonsi, Yankee and Bieber have three total nominations each for "Despacito": Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
Fonsi and Yankee have one prior GRAMMY nomination each. Bieber has seven prior GRAMMY nominations and one prior win. "Despacito" marks the first Record Of The Year nomination for each artist.
"The Story Of O.J.," Jay-Z
Jay-Z's provocative "The Story Of O.J." tackles hard-hitting topics such as civil rights, socioeconomics, stereotypes, and business acumen. Its potent commentary on African-Americans in America is definitely a case of an artist intent on making a profound statement.
"We tend as black people — because we never had anything, which is understandable — we get to a place and we just think we separate ourselves from the culture," Jay-Z said about the song via Tidal. "Like where O.J. will get to a space where he's like, 'I'm not black, I'm O.J.'"
"'The Story of O.J.' is really a song about we as a culture, having a plan, how we're gonna push this forward," Jay-Z told iHeartRadio. "We all make money, and then we all lose money, as artists especially. But how, when you have some type of success, to transform that into something bigger," a sentiment underlined by the lyric "Financial freedom our only hope/F* living rich and dying broke."
Produced by Jay-Z and No I.D., "The Story Of O.J." masterfully incorporates a sparse driving beat and piano embellishments with samples of Nina Simone's "Four Women" and Kool & The Gang's "Kool's Back Again."
Jay-Z has eight nominations to lead the 60th GRAMMY Awards field: Record Of The Year, Best Rap Song and Best Music Video for "The Story Of O.J."; Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album for 4:44; Song Of The Year and Best Rap Performance for "4:44"; and Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Family Feud" featuring Beyoncé.
One of the top GRAMMY winners of all time, Jay Z has 21 prior GRAMMY wins and 66 prior nominations. He has three prior nods for Record Of The Year: "Crazy In Love" with Beyoncé (46th GRAMMY Awards), "Umbrella" with Rihanna (50th GRAMMY Awards) and "Empire State Of Mind" with Alicia Keys (53rd GRAMMY Awards).
"HUMBLE.," Kendrick Lamar
On "HUMBLE.," Kendrick Lamar lays his cards on the table in the form of a dare to his peers: "B*, sit down/Be humble."
But it's also a cautionary reminder to Lamar himself.
"It's [about] the ego," Lamar told Rolling Stone. "That's why I did a song like that, where I just don't give a f, or I'm telling the listener, 'You can't f with me.' But ultimately, I'm looking in the mirror. ...
"That beat feels like my generation, right now. The first thing that came to my head was, 'Be humble.'"
Produced by Mike Will Made It, Lamar spits his verses on "HUMBLE." over an 808-constructed drum groove, throbbing bass and a menacing piano riff. Mike Will has described the urgent track as having "an N.W.A./Dr. Dre feel [and] an Eminem kind of feel."
Including Record Of The Year, the rapper has seven nominations this year: Album Of The Year and Best Rap Album for DAMN.; Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song and Best Music Video for "HUMBLE."; and Best Rap/Sung Performance for "LOYALTY." featuring Rihanna.
The Compton, Calif., rapper has seven prior GRAMMY wins and 21 prior nominations. "HUMBLE." marks his first Record Of The Year nomination.
"24K Magic," Bruno Mars
"Guess who's back again?" It's party-meister Mars and this time he's "a dangerous man with some money in my pocket."
"24K Magic"'s infectious foundation is built upon funky disco-meets-R&B elements as well as a prominent synth riff reminiscent of "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash. It's exactly the upbeat brand of pop that has become synonymous with the Hawaiian-born singer/songwriter.
"We wrote '24K Magic' when 'Uptown Funk' was No. 1," Mars told NME. "So if you hear the same spirit in that song, that's why."
Produced by Shampoo Press & Curl, "24K Magic" has a smooth lead vocal and glittery hooks at every turn, including layers of synths, jangly guitars, bouncy rhythmic hooks, and a juicy talk-box-laced intro.
Including Record Of The Year, Mars has six current nominations: Album Of The Year and Best R&B Album for 24K Magic; Song Of The Year, Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song for "That's What I Like."
Mars has five prior GRAMMY wins and 21 prior nominations. With five prior Record Of The Year nominations, he is the lone artist in the field with a previous win in the category: "Uptown Funk" with Mark Ronson at the 58th GRAMMY Awards.
The 60th GRAMMY Awards will take place at Madison Square Garden in New York on Jan. 28, 2018, airing live on CBS from 7:30–11 p.m. ET/4:30–8 p.m. PT.