Despite a frigid 66-degree evening in Las Vegas on Friday (Nov. 1), the talent at this year’s inaugural Day N Vegas festival brought the heat. Inside the festival grounds on the northern stretch of the Las Vegas Strip, attendees donned appropriate fall attire from sweat suits and bomber jackets to pants and layered ensembles. Others joined the lengthy lines at the merchandise booths to cop warmer gear or adhered to the Sin City dress code of tiny outfits that left little to the imagination.
There was much to take in across the three-stage setup: the main stage Jackpot hosted top-bill acts as the Roll The Dice and Hunnid stages showcased noteworthy acts on the rise. The intriguing mix of under the radar and new-school hip-hop and R&B also provided moments of discovery for those craving alternatives to established artists.
Still, the rookie festival was not without flaws on its first day. Inadequate lighting made it hard to navigate the Day N Vegas campus at night when migrating from stage to stage. A multitude of heat lamps across the grounds would have been a welcome source of warmth as temperatures dropped. Sound issues affected a buzzy, record-breaking singer’s set while last-minute switches in the lineup allowed one artist to pivot to a bigger stage. Here are our takeaways from Day One.
Rock N’ Rap Lives
Rock-rap isn’t a new concept, but for the finger-flipping patrons who enjoy their hip-hop with doses of alternative, Dayton, Ohio MC Jasiah and Juice WRLD delivered. The former held down the Roll The Dice stage, where the crowd mirrored a low-key mosh pit from the outskirts. In screamy octaves, Jasiah piled on the profanity for his finale “CA$E 19,” a viral track that initially featured Florida rapper $not but was then remixed into a different version with 6ix9ine. Despite the F-bombs, Jasiah performed the vulnerable track “I’m Depressed,” which was released in 2017 under the name “This For My Young N—as Who Listen To Soulja Boy.” The hook: “Ice on my wrist but there’s slits on there, too.”
Later, Juice WRLD took over the Jackpot stage, reserved for the top-bill acts, where images of skeletons, animated toons and the words “Death Race for Love” — a nod to his second studio album — flashed on the jumbo screen. He stuck to his savage anthems like “Bandit,” “Lean Wit Me” and the breakthrough hit “Lucid Dreams.” He also paid tribute to fallen rappers, Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller, saying, “Make noise for our motherf–kin’ legends.”
R&B Flourishes But Stumbles
Clad in a leather jacket, S1C shirt, shades and Nike Cortez sneakers, Miguel offered up his finest work fit for body-rolling at the Jackpot stage. Backed by a guitarist and a drummer, the Los Angeles native (who shouted out his Mexican and California roots, saying “My mother is a beautiful black woman from Inglewood”) set the mood with renditions of “How Many Drinks,” “Drugs” and “Adorn.” After “Come Through and Chill” — which included chants of “I wanna f–k all night” — Miguel played romance consultant, advising the attendees to ask for permission before touching a lady. He rounded out his set with the wavy gem “Sky Walker.”
Over at the Roll The Dice stage, guests were ready for a Summer Walker moment. The R&B darling of the moment recently celebrated a huge victory with her debut album Over It, which became the most-streamed album by a woman R&B artist ever, breaking a record previously set by Beyoncé with 2016’s Lemonade. Walker, however, appeared 20 minutes late and struggled with technical difficulties. With a live band, her performance of “Body” — which features a sample of ‘90s girl group and Las Vegas natives 702’s “Get It Together” — fell flat with the instrumentation and backing vocals ringing louder than her own vocals. Walker walked off the stage at one point, only for a man who appeared to be super producer and close collaborator, London On Da Track, to grab a mic and say, “Who f–ked up my girl’s s–t?” and call her the “queen of R&B.” She re-emerged and persevered through the mic struggles, singing “Session 32” and her Drake-approved single “Girls Need Love.” She later took to her Instagram Stories to offer an apology: “Sorry again about the sound at the festival, completely out of my control.”
Las Vegas Shuffle
Previously scheduled for a 9:15 p.m. set at the Roll The Dice stage, East Atlanta crooner 6lack was moved to the Jackpot stage, shifting Philadelphia hitmaker Lil Uzi Vert to the Roll The Dice stage for a later performance at 9:45 p.m. (Pro-tips: effective time management and solid phone service are necessary while ping-ponging across the festival site.)
6lack pandered to the “old-school day ones” with performances of cuts off his Free 6lack debut, rousing nostalgia of his days as an introverted wordsmith with dreads. “Never Know” and “Free” were essentially litmus tests for the type of crowd 6lack was working with. “I’m just testin’ y’all out all night,” he said. “I’m havin’ fun.”
The Grammy-nominated artist soundtracked the Vegas night with the tracks “Let Her Go,” “East Atlanta Love Letter” and “Switch” off his sophomore effort East Atlanta Love Letter and allowed newer fans to participate in the sing-along with distinct offerings like “Ex Calling” and the Khalid and Ty Dolla $ign collaboration “OTW.” Before departing, 6lack delivered the J. Cole-assisted gem “Pretty Little Fears” (sans Cole, which, more on him later) and his standout number “Prblms.” He then said, “My next album will be my best album. Peace out. That’s my time.”
Elsewhere on the lineup, DMV MC, Goldlink, was the master of vibes with his set. Entries off his 2017 debut At What Cost debut (i.e. “Pray Everyday [“Survivor’s Guilt”]”) and the Afrobeats-meets-rap album Diaspora (“Joke Ting”) provided a necessary dance party just before the closer “Crew” rang off. Hybrid rapper-singer, PnB Rock, thrived with his radio-friendly tunes like “Dreamin’,” “Go To Mars” and contributions to the emotional Kodak Black cut “Too Many Years.” His “Unforgettable” remix and celebratory life anthem “Everyday We Lit” also offered a few high notes at the Roll The Dice stage.
J. Cole’s 2020 The Fall Off Campaign
“Nowadays, it seems like s–t is all fucked up. The country needs a hero to turn to in these turbulent times. Jermaine Cole is that one,” said a voiceover for Cole’s faux campaign video, a hilariously on-point, minute-long vignette that played before his headlining set.
(“The Fall Off” is the title for a project that Cole has kept under wraps for some time. It was not immediately clear if 2020 was a hint at its slated release date or a play off the United States presidential election happening next year.)
Highlighting his latest feature run, humility, a pen game that has resulted in a reported $2,000 every word and diplomatic expertise in “healing the intergenerational war,” Cole’s potent campaign turned Day N Vegas into a simulated hip-hop rally. Opening with the fiery cut “Middle Child,” Cole kept the energy levels as high as the Stratosphere’s Sky Dome in the background with high-octane cuts like “KOD,” “A Tale of 2 Citiez,” “GOMD” and “Count It Up,” and even covered 21 Savage’s “A Lot” and Young Thug’s “The London.” While Cole skipped the deep monologues as heard on his tours and albums, love was the resounding theme throughout his set. He swerved into love songs like “Power Trip” and “Nobody’s Perfect” before playful entries like “Can’t Get Enough” and “Wet Dreams.”
Day N Vegas then transformed into a mini-Dreamville Fest as label signees supported their boss and mentor onstage. After Bas, Omen, Lute, JID and EarthGang performed individual sets earlier in the day (per Cole, songbird Ari Lennox could not attend), Cole brought them out to deliver squad cuts from the “legendary” Dreamville sessions. His fellow North Carolina rep, DaBaby, also made an explosive appearance for a live version of “Under The Sun” before the DJ segued into “Suge” for a solo performance from the Kirk rapper. Other Revenge of the Dreamers III entries like “Down Bad” and “Sacrifices” solidified Dreamville’s chemistry on-stage. “It’s just family first,” said Cole, “and those sessions prove that.”
The hour-long set closed with renditions of J. Cole set staples “Love Yourz” and “No Role Modelz,” appropriate notes to end Day One on as festival attendees ventured back onto the Vegas streets near midnight with a night full of vices still ahead of them.