MUSIC biggest stars gather in Los Angeles today, for the Grammy Awards, and this years observers are hoping the hip-hop and women artists leading the pack will get their due.

The industry's annual gala draws eye rolls every year from critics who say the winners are too white and too male, but for the second consecutive year black hip-hop artists dominated the nominations across the board.

Rappers Kendrick Lamar - who won a Pulitzer Prize for his album DAMN  but not a Grammy for Album of the Year - earned eight nominations, while Canadian rapper Drake snagged seven.

Women artists scored nods in all the  top categories  after being largely snubbed a year ago, with rapper Cardi B, pop diva Lady Gaga, pop  futurist Janelle Monae and folk rocker Barndi Carlile, among the frontrunners. In the Best New Artist category,  six of the eight nominees are women.

But skepticism lingers that nods will actually translate into wins, after rap mogul Jay-Z  left empty-handed last year despite eight nominations.

That show sparked a major backlash - even retro funk star Bruno Mar's surprise sweep in the top categories was divisive, as it was seen as somewhat out of touch with the more groundbreaking work on the offer.

In response, the Recording Academy - which organises the gala - created a diversity task force and expanded the four top categories from five nominees to eight.

''The industry and the Recording Academy do understand that they have a problem on their hands,''  said Murray Forman, who studies pop music at Boston's Northeastern University.

Lamar once again has the chance to win the prestigious Album of the Year award after three prior losses   -this time for the soundtrack for the film Back Panther.

Drake nabbed nomination across the top categories for his album Scorpion. Women snagged five of the eight Album of the Year nominations. [AFP]


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