Sights and bites from the Sunday’s Grammy Awards show at MGM Grand Garden:
Twenty-one-year-old rap artist Baby Keem of Las Vegas beat out a powerhouse field to win Best Rap Performance in Sunday’s show. “Family Ties,” Keem’s collab with his cousin Kendrick Lamar, beat out fellow nominees “MY. LIFE by J. Cole featuring Savage and Morray, “Up” by Cardi B., and “Thot S***” by Megan Thee Stallion.
“It feels like some sort of magic that Vegas is hosting the Grammys and I’m from here, and I’ve won my first one here,” Keem said a few minutes after the great rap artist and actor Ludacris announced him as winner. It doesn’t even feel real, to be holding this award in the city I grew up in.”
Keem joined Lamar onstage for “Family Ties” at November’s Day N Vegas festival on Las Vegas Festival Grounds.
“To have this happen is so important,” said Keem, whose legal name is Hykeem Jamaal Carter Jr. “This means a lot, I’m taking this very serious, and I’m building on it.”
Charlie Rosen and Jake Silverman of The 8-Bit Big Band won a statue in their first nomination for Best Arrangement, Instrumental and A Capella for “Meta Knight’s Revenge.” They might not be familiar names and their work might not catch attention, but the buys are the first to be honored for fusing video-game scores with big-band arrangements.
“Vegas has a history of big bands, this is the place, ‘Frank Sinatra at The Sands,’ all of that is from Vegas,” Silverman said just after the duo’s award was announced. The album arrangement comes from the “Kirby Superstar” video game.
“The idea is to put an orchestra on familiar music,” Rosen said. “People from all generations can enjoy it.
Silverman has a history of blending formats. He was actually in the band for Jazz is Phsh, which played Brooklyn Bowl in November 2019. As the title hints, this is a jazz band that re-imagines Phish jams. Asked to elaborate about that show, he simply said, “We don’t talk about it.”
Tiesto in the lineup
A superstar Strip DJ took up residency in a different (for him) venue on Sunday afternoon. Tiesto, donning a brilliant gold suit, walked the carpet ahead of Sunday night’s show. The Zouk Nightclub/Ayu Dayclub headliner at Resorts World Las Vegas was with his wife, supermodel Annika Backes.
Tiesto was nominated for Best Dance/Electronic Recording for “The Business,” his release with Hightower and Julia Karlsson. “Alive” by Rüfüs Du Sol and Jason Evigan, won the award.
Tiesto said life is fine anyway. “It is great to be performing still in the Strip. I live in Las Vegas, I love it here, and we are seeing the industry just exploding. I am very proud to be a part of all of it.”
Mayer Hawthorne, among the nominees for Album of the Year for “Planet Her” by Doja Cat, was an early gambler at the Cosmopolitan. He was the first gambler, actually. He took the ceremonial first dice roll at the Cosmo during its opening in 2010, when he was playing the old Book & Stage music venue/sports book.
“Forget the Grammys, I want a plaque for that,” Hawthorne laughed. He stood alongside Tuxedo collaborator Jake One, and the two joked about their many Grammy nods without a victory. “The Tuxedo boys are really raking it in,”
One agreed, sort of. “On one of our album covers, we have a sticker there that says, ‘Five-time Grammy losers.’ I think we’re up to 15 now. We wear it like a badge of honor.
Say ‘I Do’
On the topic of those who have played Cosmopolitan, Best Progressive R&B Album Nominees Hiatus Kaiyote recalled a couple of gigs nearly 10 years ago in Vegas. One on the Strip, one off, and not at all alike.
“We played Chandelier bar at the Cosmopolitan,” keyboardist Simon Mavin said. “It was our first show in the States. Chandeliers above us, machines below us.”
Singer Nai Palm chipped in, too.
“That wasn’t even the most bizarre. We got a call to play this place called Insert Coins, an arcade place,” the vocalist said, referring to the since-shuttered bar and arcade on Fremont East where Evel Pie now stands. “Someone had contacted us to pull off this marriage proposal. He got the chick up onstage, proposed to her, and just walked offstage and didn’t say anything. We invested the whole audience and we asked them, ‘What did she says?’ And he said, ‘She’s thinking about it.’
“We had no contingency plan for this.”
Best Contemporary Instrumental Album nominee Rachel Eckroth has a history in Las Vegas. Golden Nugget, specifically.
“I was in Clint Holmes’ original show, about 20 years ago when I was in college,” Eckroth said. “I used to play in lounge bands a lot I was with Dian Diaz, too.” Diaz was a lounge icon at Bellagio’s Fontana Room for years before leaving for Biloxi.
Eckroth and Holmes continue to collaborate and are currently writing together. Eckroth is returning next month to perform with UNLV’s Contemporary Jazz Ensemble.
H.E.R. lights it up
Vegas-Grammys sighting: The R&B star took in “iLuminate” on Saturday night at The Strat Theater.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.