Somewhere between his duties as the leader of The Roots, his steady gig keeping Jimmy Fallon cool, writing books on music and creativity and crafting a delicious vegetarian cheesesteak, Questlove has been spinning at Park MGM’s speakeasy On the Record almost since it opened. This weekend he expands his Vegas ventures by taking a turn in the booth at the renovated resort’s new day party, JEMAA at the NoMad Pool.
“Now that I’ve had about five good On the Record runs, I’m getting cocky, so bring on the pool party,” Quest kids. “It will be a little different. I don’t want to be the guy who’s stuck in his ways and only what I think is quality stuff is what you’re stuck with. Obviously my pool party set will be a little more to the right compared to the left-of-center stuff I would do in my [club] set. But I’m still going to make it creative, and that’s the important part.”
It’s good to have you back in Vegas on a regular basis. What do you think of On the Record? It’s been a minute since I had a residency there, and it’s nice to have a residency in such a relaxed, unpressurized atmosphere. Vegas is one of probably three places in America where I feel there’s a pressure to re-create the countdown on New Year’s Eve every 10 minutes. [At] On the Record, I finally found the spot that lets me do me and allows me some space to experiment.
Are you looking forward to the JEMAA pool party or are you apprehensive? Actually, I prefer to do more afternoon gigs. That’s where my sweet spot is. A lot of my memories of early hip-hop are rooted in afternoon block parties, from noon to 9 or whenever the cops shut it down. But the Vegas pool party is something else. I gotta figure out a clever plan that keeps it creative.
You’ve frequently played Vegas with The Roots for a long time now and the city has changed a lot as a music destination. From your perspective, does Vegas feel like a cooler musical city these days? It is—not to take away from Celine or Elton or Britney or whoever has been there. There was a point before Fallon when we were trying to figure out how to do the same [residency] thing in Atlantic City, thinking in terms of how we don’t want to do this Grateful Dead, 275-days-a-year-on-the-road thing. We’d been doing it from 1993 to 2007, and it was really wearing and tearing on us super hard. We were trying to Celine Dion this sh*t but on the East Coast.
But yes, Vegas is basically the new LA. Practically all of my friends and peers have been moving to Vegas, and all of LA is just basically moving to Las Vegas. And on top of that, a lot of us tourists are discovering there’s a lot more life in the city than just the Strip that we know. I think in five years Vegas is the destination point for entertainment, period.
QUESTLOVE May 3, 10:30 p.m., $30-$35; On the Record, 702-730-6773. May 4, 11 a.m., $20-$30; JEMAA the NoMad Pool Party, 702-730-6784.