Kendrick Lamar, the rapper who has emerged as a voice of the Black Lives Matter movement, took an early lead Monday at the Grammys where pop superstar Taylor Swift also had victories.
In awards presented before the main gala in Los Angeles, Lamar had won four Grammys -- including Best Rap Song for "Alright," which has become an anthem against police abuse.
Lamar leads the night's nominations amid acclaim for his experimental rap opus "To Pimp a Butterfly," a meditative look with jazz touches at the plight of black America.
Grammys host LL Cool J, a rapper turned actor, said Lamar planned a "very controversial" performance during the live broadcast show.
He did not specify further, but at last year's Black Entertainment Television awards, Lamar sang "Alright" atop a graffiti-sprayed police car.
Thundercat, a bassist and songwriter who worked with Lamar, said that "To Pimp a Butterfly" was a rare musical work that would live for posterity.
"He did one of those albums that is getting its proper treatment after people heard it," he told reporters.
Swift, whose album "1989" was by far the best seller among those in contention, also won two early awards and was in contention in the leading categories.
She won Best Pop Vocal Album for "1989" and Best Music Video for her song "Bad Blood" -- which also went to Lamar, who appeared in the action-themed clip.
Producer Jack Antonoff accepted the award on behalf of Swift, who was rehearsing for her performance, but took out his mobile telephone to put the pop singer on speakerphone.
"Oh my God," the 26-year-old starlet said, in an exclamation she quickly shared with her more than 71 million Twitter followers.
Swift was nominated for seven Grammys for music off "1989," the former country prodigy's transformation into a pop superstar.
- Alabama Shakes, The Weeknd win -
Alabama Shakes, the bluesy indie rock band defined by Brittany Howard's thunderous voice, also won two Grammys -- Best Alternative Music Album and Rock Song.
Alabama Shakes, who are in contention for the prestigious Album of the Year, hail from the small town of Athens, Alabama and played in obscurity until winning attention on a trip to New York in 2011.