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Articles and photos from Robin Leach's Luxe Life: Vegas column in the Las Vegas Magazine and are copyrighted and reprinted with permission.
THREE TIME GRAMMY-WINNER NELLY’S AMAZING THREE-DAY HIP HOP VEGAS CELEBRATION
Six-time Billboard Award-winner and superstar recording artist Nelly has a star-studded three-day weekend in store for some 100 lucky fans when he takes over the Red
Rock Resort tomorrow (FRI).
The 11-time Grammy Award nominee already recruited producer pal Jermaine Dupri to play DJ for the affair and his friend, basketball star Alan Iverson will celebrate his birthday there as part of the wild weekend.
Its all part of a unique sneak peek (and listen) to his new Brass Knuckles album, the first full album of new songs in four years to be released in August. The debut single “Party People,” co-starring Fergie and produced by her with Ludacris and Usher has already generated over 2 million YouTube streams showing imagery from the Moulin Rouge movie-musical. His previous studio project, the unique 2004 double release Sweat and Suit albums made him the first solo artist in history to make simultaneous album chart entries at No. 1 and No. 2!
Other top-notch producers and recording artists who joined him for the new album include Pharrell, Akon, Snoop Dogg, LL Cool J, Ciara, Babyface and Ashanti. Don’t be
surprised if any of those artists also join in the weekend fun. That includes a VIP dinner Nelly will host, an evening of bowling inside the Red Rock Lanes VIP bowling suite,
a close-up intimate live concert performance by Nelly inside the Rocks Lounge and an after-party at Cherry nightclub with Jermaine twisting the turntables for the Iverson
Nelly, now 34-years-old was born Cornell Hayes Jr. in Austin, Texas but was raised in the St. Louis inner-city zone. He starred in the remake of The Longest Yard with Chris Rock and Adam Sandler and took a break from filming the season premiere of CSI: NY in which he plays a club owner under suspicion of murder, for our exclusive Luxe Life interview:
RL: Are you looking forward to this Vegas weekend at Red Rock?
N: I hear it is beautiful I haven’t seen the resort yet, but I am looking forward to it. It is also Alan Iverson’s birthday on the 7th, he is a good friend of mine, and I wanted to throw
him a birthday party on that day. Jermaine Dupri is there. He is going to DJ for Alan as well.
RL: The highlight of your visit is when you give everyone a tease of the new album?
N: Yeah, the album is called Brass Knuckles. It is my fifth studio album. The reason I called it that is because I wanted to describe just how hard the album would hit. It’s energy, it’s aggressiveness. I am not a violent person, so not in that way, just in the way of how much of an impact it makes as far as the tempo and energy. I usually take about two years between albums but this one took four years. I went through a lot. I usually take two years trying to get the album together. This couple of years in between has been rough I lost my sister in 05, and then I lost my grandfather. It was all a little rough on me. I am finally getting it together so that takes time and thought.
RL: How different is this album from the past records?
N: With Country Grammar (2000) it was an introduction to me and where I was from and the type of music I would bring to the table, Nellyville (2002) was more evolved as in me standing on my own as far as showing everyone I wasn’t a one hit wonder. Then with Sweat & Suit (2004) dropping two albums on the same day was totally different, I wanted to get both sides. People allow me to do both sides, they allowed me to do “Hot in Here,” “Grillz,” and “Air Force Ones.” They also supported me on “Over and Over’s” and “Dilemmas,” those types of songs, a little more melodic. This new album is more like me in a different place. I am a lot older. I think it is making sure people understand that St. Louis is my real home and background. This album is different for me because I got stuck in a place where people were used to the melodic and I got away from it with the up-tempo joints and I brought it back on this album. They now have a purpose.
RL: Is hip-hop is stronger than ever, or are there too many people in the business?
N: It depends on how you look at it. To say it is going down when it is the most popular music on the planet is ludicrous. To say that it is not important to music right now, that
would be an asinine statement. I think every genre of music goes through a spurt where it looks worse than it really is. I think that happens. Like I said again you have children 19-20 yeas old and they have been listening since they were born. It has a history; it is 35-plus years old so kids may not listen to anything other than hip hop. I think hip hop is in a great place, I think some of these people may not understand it. Hip hop was created by the kids, for the kids and now you have so many older people trying to control it. Sometimes you have to let the kids decide where it is going to go. Mistakes have to be made so it can be reconciled.
RL: Is it still the poetry of the street?
N: It will always be that. It has different outlets now. There are many different versions of hip hop now. It has crossed over into pop music. I did the collaboration with Tim McGraw so it’s been into country music. Where would we be without Rum DMC and Aerosmith? They were some of the first guys to take that chance and walk that line, they were criticized. You had hip hop heads saying they sold out when they did that, they said they were making a mockery of that. Where would we be without Walk This Way?
RL: You are on the clean side of hip hop?
N: I try to stay on the side that best suits me. I don’t know if that is the clean side, or bad side or what? I just do me. I have been through so much negativity growing up, so why would I continue that. If I am successful, why would I want to jeopardize that? I jeopardized everything trying to be successful, so if I achieved success why would I continue to jeopardize that?
RL: So you can use hip hop to lift people up rather than bring people down and have others complaining about the offensive lyrics.
N: That is the key. I you look at hip hop, it has to be the largest black employer. How many kids are getting a good education because their parents can afford to send them to the best schools in that area. Hip Hop employs not just musicians, producers, photographers, models and web designers. You have kids going to Princeton and Notre Dame and they are hip hop fans. I think they don’t do their homework about that. It is easier to put negativity on the TV, we all know it sells, but now go behind the scenes and see what people are doing in their neighborhoods to benefit.
RL: It is fair to say as the part owner of an NBA team the Charlotte Bobcats you have come from the very bottom, al the way to the top.
N: Right. It is the American dream. You said it yourself ‘champagne wishes & caviar dreams.’ You watch your show and it was one of my favorites and I was like one day that’s for me. When you finally get that opportunity to have that and share that with others.
RL: How grim were your early days?
N: My parents were divorced at an early age, my father never held down a steady job until I was older. My mother was a young mother. I don’t think she was ready to become a full time mother, be that as it may, I lived with my father for a little bit but he couldn’t afford to keep me. I went to live with my mother and her boyfriend, they went their separate ways and I was out there for a little bit. I lived with friends, I moved a lot. I went to eight different schools; I was kicked out of four. I went through a period where you wonder what is the problem, is it me? It helped me grow up faster and take on responsibility.
RL: Is there one defining moment where you said I am not going down this path to ruin because I want to go down the path that leads to success?
N: I think there were a bunch of them. I had friends in jail. I had a daughter. When you have kids it puts a new perspective. It is not like your life is over, but in a way it is, now
your responsibility is not for yourself, it is to another life. You look at that in a different way. You say I want to be a better parent than my parents were. My daughter, Chanel is
now 14 and she’s a fine young lady.
RL: Incidentally why did you decide to buy the Charlotte Bobcats?
N: At the time it was not my thing, it was a case where one of the rarest things we have on this planet, a black billionaire, Bob Johnson said he wanted to present me with an
opportunity to take me under his wing and mentor. He presented me with this opportunity; it has always been a dream of mine to own any sports team. I am not going to pretend I am sitting in the room making decisions, but it is a learning process for me and I feel proud and blessed to be in that position. We’re doing pretty well. We won 6-7 games we are steadily improving. It is funny with this album going on I didn’t get to get to too many of their games. I had to rely on my HD TV NBA Game Pass to watch them!
ANDRE AGASSI’S KEEPING “WATCH” ON THE TENNIS TOURNAMENTS
Our hometown tennis hero, Andre Agassi partnered with the famous Longines watchmakers to unveil a limited-edition Grand Vitesse timepiece with sales going to benefit his College preparatory Academy.
Andre inspired Longines to make 888-limited-edition Andre Agassi watches. The Grand Vitesse pays homage to the extraordinary sports legend. Recognized for his athletic accomplishments and philanthropic efforts, the design of the 888-exclusive watches is classic and elegant with a sporty edge. The 175-year-old watchmaker chose to highlight the gold in The Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation’s logo with each watch designed with a custom-made case back featuring the logo and a special limited-edition number. The special Grand Vitesse has a gold “8” to commemorate the “8” Grand Slams won by Agassi during his exceptional tennis career.
“Longines has created for the U.S. market, a watch that exhibits the sophistication and timeless elegance of Agassi, while bringing close attention to the incredible work he is doing through his foundation. The gold “8? on the dial commemorates his heart of gold in his dedication to children,” said Jennifer Judkins, brand manager, Longines U.S. “I am honored to have my name on such an exquisite timepiece,” said Agassi. “Longines has shown tremendous support for my foundation and I am grateful for all the company’s endeavors.”
Following its unveiling the exclusive rights to the limited edition numbers were auctioned off to jewelry retailers who came to Vegas for the event during their Jewelry Week. All $36,500 raised from the auction was promptly donated to Andre’s Charitable Foundation, which supports his Academy for under-privileged kids. Its now in its seventh year and is home for more than 500-deserving children.
Said Andre: “This is my life now. I still watch tennis but I don’t miss the playing, the pressure or the training. I still love the sport, but I’m happier spending my time with my own
children and the foundation. I’m probably spending 60 percent of my time doing things with the foundation. I’m very grateful for the exposure we’ve gotten for it.” He confided he may even play a one-on-one superstar Vegas tennis match to raise funds for his foundation.
Meantime, he’s got to finish his autobiography to be published before Christmas. He says he’s not leaving anything out and even though he’ll write about his happy love affair and marriage to tennis star Steffi Graf he says he will also shake loose some skeletons! Maybe we’ll learn if Brooke Shields’ mom wrecked that union? But he’s proudest of all with the ongoing work of the foundation next year’s first graduating seniors class at the Preparatory Academy and his son Jaden age 6 and daughter Jaz age 4. “To watch them grow everyday is something very special to me; nothing makes me happier.”
ONE-ON-ONE DINNER DATE WITH PAMELA ANDERSON SELLS FOR THOU$AND$
It just might well wind up being the most expensive one-night dinner date in history. Former Planet Hollywood Resort’s Beauty of Magic Strip showgirl Pamela Anderson flew to the United Arab Emirates to boost the local chapter’s debut of the Make A Wish foundation.
She agreed to be “auctioned off” to one lucky bidder for one dinner a-deux! Now just what would you pay for a shot at romance with the world’s most beautiful busty blonde? I’m told the winning package went for AED230, 000, which tallies up to just $62,000 in American money. Pamela, now filming her new reality series, has hinted she may well marry for a fourth time before the show comes to an end and maybe this overseas dinner date might just lead to the real thing?
STARS PLAY AND PARTY HEARTY AT THE PALMS
If there’s two hot-spots in town under the same roof where you are guaranteed a run in with the stars you gotta believe it’s the Moon nightclub and the N9ne steakhouse restaurant both at George Maloof’s Palms resort casino. More dramatic news though first: DJ Tiesto has decreed he will no longer use the DJ moniker in front of his performing name! He made that clear when he settled in at the Moon nightclub atop the Palms Fantasy Tower! “It’s Tiesto not DJ Tiesto,” he told his eight-friend entourage as the Red Bull Cola models surrounded him seductively, but he stuck with Ketel One and Cranberry!
Former porn-queen Jenna Jameson and boyfriend former UFC champion Tito Ortiz were cuddled up closerthanthis at another table enjoying Dom Perignon champagne and Ketel One. Actors Chazz Palmenteri and Shemar Franklin Moore from Criminal Minds partied at separate tables with their friends.
Dancing With the Stars Cheryl Burke and Kym Johnson stayed in their seats at Moon and just watched all their friends break it down on the dance floor!
One floor below at the Playboy Club, NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Carnell Lamar “Cadillac” Williams entertained six friends in the exclusive Fireplace Lounge. But downstairs at N9ne it was wall-to-wall sports stars and celebrities. NFL Cleveland Browns quarterback Brady Quinn dined with wide receiver team-mate Braylon Jamel Edwards and six friends, NBA Washington Wizards star Antawn Jamison entertained another six pals, NBA Chicago Bulls player Drew Gooden had dinner with skateboard star Ryan Shekler and friends, NFL Buffalo Bills player Melvin Fowler had dinner with seven pals including NFL Pittsburgh Steelers player Hines Ward who didn’t eat, but just stuck to Grey Goose and Cranberry cocktails, comedian Carlos Mencia had dinner with yet another group of six friends, but when pop-band Linkin Park arrived they showed with 21 guests and took over half of the glassed private dining room for a bachelor party send-off meal! Finally, Steven Jackson, running back for the St. Louis Rams and his head coach Scott Linehan dined on chef Barry Dakake’s signature rock shrimp, oysters Rockefeller, steaks and creamed corn. Steve made the new Palomas rage his drink of choice, that’s Patron Silver tequila with Grapefruit Soda and a fresh grapefruit slice!
DINING AT “THE DONALD’S” NEW RESTAURANT & FIRST LOOK AT THE NEW SUSHI SAMBA SENSATION OPENING IN JUST 10-DAYS TIME
Two new Strip restaurant sensations are all the buzz of the food world. Billionaire developer Donald Trump has won raves already for his new DJT restaurant at the Trump International Hotel tower.
Every Thursday through Sunday from 3-7 p.m. they serve up High Champagne as opposed to High Tea—this is Vegas after all! Guests get their choice of fine champagnes ranging from Dom Perignon to Moet Rose Imperial at a get-together mixer in the buildings elegant lobby.
Then chefs Joe Isidori and chef de cuisine David Varley literally blow one away with their food creations: the chilled sweet pea soup comes with jewels of fruit and vegetable, the slow roasted halibut, Florida cobia and lobster dishes simply cannot be beaten. My dish that floated on a bed of lemongrass aromatics was beyond sensational.
Michael Shearin has created an extraordinary Trump list of small artisan producers’ rare wines, sakes and beers. Check out the $900 bottle of Daiginjo sake or the more modest $22 First Embrace from Yukihonoka Junmai. He’s got a $62 Brouwerji Bosteels beer from Belgium down to a $9 Brazilian black beer and my favorite Newcastle Brown Ale from England at $8. But it’s at the soda fountain you can have the most frivolous fun with everything from lemongrass and rhubarb sodas to birch beer and vintage Coke!
‘The Donald” himself dined there with son Donald Jr. and gave it a resounding thumbs-up approval. It just might be the first American fine-dining experience here to give French masters Joel Robuchon and Guy Savoy a tantalizing taste of competition!
Meantime, this week across the Strip at The Palazzo the new management team, chefs and servers of the new Sushi Samba restaurant began working on their June 17 opening. Led by chef Jose Mendin this is the 7th and largest Sushi Samba and its first West Coast location.
It’s inventive fare that unites bold Brazilian flavors with precise Japanese techniques and exquisite Peruvian culinary traditions. Guests will even be able to watch through transparent glass the first Sushi Samba robata grill reminiscent of the centuries old country style cooking of northern Japanese fisherman.
New signature cocktails have been created specifically for Vegas and Tiffany Soto becomes the only female master sommelier in town! The restaurant evokes images of Brazil’s annual Carnaval celebration with an oversized art installation of a 3-D illustration of swirling ribbons that explode from the center of the room and wrap their way around eating spaces, winding around the sushi bar with its 21 seats and the lounge with 35 additional seats. The main dining room seats 150.
Owner-partner Matt Johnson gave me the private advance tour and he showed off with pride the intimate Sugarcane latenight lounge decorated in gold- and chocolate-brown leather, bamboo and wenge woods with a custom-made simulated sugarcane ceiling with moving lights winding through tubes and rods.
Sushi Samba restaurants are massively popular hit hip hangouts in New York, Miami and Chicago and are certain to be even more successful now here in Vegas.