Bowie received posthumous nominations for best British male and best album, for his haunting swansong Blackstar.
After a row over diversity at last year’s ceremony, the rest of the best male category comprises artists from BAME backgrounds.
Craig David, Kano, Michael Kiwanuka and Skepta, who beat Bowie at the Mercury Prize, are all up for the title.
Skepta has three nominations in total, with additional nods in the best breakthrough and best album categories.
Girl band Little Mix also have three – including best group and best single, for their song Shout Out To My Ex.
Meanwhile, Beyonce and her younger sister Solange Knowles are both up for best international female, after releasing albums about race and politics last year.
There were calls for a boycott of last year’s Brits, after BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) artists were absent from all but the international categories.
Organisers later overhauled the voting system, improving the representation of both women and people from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Grime star Stormzy, who called the Brits “embarrassing” in his single One Take Freestyle, this year receives a nomination in the best British breakthrough category.
Craig David said he felt grime, urban and R&B artists had excelled themselves in the past year.
“What they’re doing for British music is pivotal, and it’s moving a whole scene forward,” he told BBC News.
“Diversity is the key,” added Michael Kiwanuka. “I don’t think it’s about just skin colour.
“When you put a record on, it’s about seeing things from a different perspective. It’s deeper than what someone looks like, and I think the Brits are reflecting that.”
However, David said it would be hard for his fellow best male nominees to compete against Bowie. “His career has been so epic. He influenced me and so many other artists. There’s no competition.”
The best female category sees competition between Ellie Goulding, Lianne La Havas, Emeli Sande, NAO and Anohni – who formerly performed under the name Antony and the Johnsons.
In the international categories, there was also recognition for Leonard Cohen, who died late last year.