A New Era of Las Vegas Residencies Is Comin' at Ya

What happens when the legendary Wu-Tang Clan brings da ruckus to Sin City?

Wu-Tang Clan Residency, Las Vegas
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Getty Images
Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Getty Images
With a year of unparalleled activity and worldwide attention ahead, Las Vegas is in the midst of a major transformation. This week, all bets are off as we head to the desert to explore this exciting moment and what it means for the future of Sin City. Read more here.

Las Vegas residencies have undergone a major makeover in the past 10 years. The series, which Cher once famously called an “elephant graveyard where talent goes to die,” is now a career milestone that has marked diva status for the likes of Celine Dion, Adele, J.Lo, and even Cher herself.

But what was once eponymous with major pop acts is entering a new era. A series of contemporary and legacy rock and R&B groups have debuted Vegas shows to major success, and now in 2024, the Strip will see its first-ever rap residency from the legendary Wu-Tang Clan. The New York City–bred collective, known for classics like “Protect Ya Neck,” “C.R.E.A.M.,” and “Triumph,” will play The Saga Continues… at the Theater at Virgin Hotels during the weekends of Super Bowl LVIII in February and the NCAA’s March Madness.

A Vegas rap residency has been a longtime coming. According to culture writer and executive editor of Tidal Magazine Jaelani Turner-Williams, the entertainment industry at large is finally giving hip-hop legends the stages they deserve. 

"It's definitely time for storied hip-hop figures to be respected with regard to residencies," says Turner-Williams, who wrote the liner notes for Ol' Dirty Bastard's upcoming debut album. "A lot of that love is shown to legacy white acts, especially those who are in pop and rock. We haven't really given the same courtesy to hip-hop artists. I think that the music industry is still figuring that out."

For bookers like Bobby Reynolds, senior vice president of booking at AEG Presents Las Vegas, Wu-Tang Clan is the kind of act that's perfect for a residency, regardless of genre.

“What we do [as bookers] is look for an artist that has been around for a while and has developed a fan base for a long time, and certainly Wu-Tang checks that box,” Reynolds says, also noting how the group fits the criteria of considering an artist’s reputation, ability to command an audience, and series of hits.

Wu-Tang Clan
Wu-Tang Clan | Getty Images

The Wu have long been considered icons—from pioneering the ’90s East Coast sound to bringing an authenticity to rap lyricism by documenting life as a young Black man in NYC—and they remain favorites of veteran hip-hop heads and young music fans alike.

As Turner-Williams explains, the group has "really touched multiple generations" since the release of their seminal, debut album

Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) in 1993, which is registered in the Library of Congress. She describes it as a record that parents pass along to their kids, while noting how younger generations have found out about the group on their own through the Hulu series, Wu-Tang: An American Saga, and video games.

She adds, "They don't just touch on hip-hop, but they transcended the genre by tackling kung fu films, martial arts culture, philosophy, and religion [in their art]. They've tackled so many aspects of just universalism in general that I feel like is relatable to not only multiple ages, but multiple ethnicities."

Despite the group’s legendary status, the residency was still five years in the making. Although details about the forthcoming show are slim, it should feature all 10 members of the current touring lineup and will reflect on their prolific place in music history both as a group and as individual performers.

The residency will take place at the Theater at Virgin Hotels—typically host to rock residencies for the likes of Guns N’ Roses, Journey, Mötley Crüe, and others—which should foster an intimate, luxe experience for devout fans. The group will play to crowds of just 4,000 at the mid-size venue, which includes an expansive floor and numerous VIP sections. That’s just a portion of the usual audiences that the Wu play for when headlining festivals or on tour. When they were in Vegas in October on a co-headlining run with Nas, they filled 16,800 seats at MGM Grand Garden Arena.

The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas | Courtesy Virgin Hotels Las Vegas

Reynolds isn’t surprised there’s a demand for the genre in Sin City – especially because of how long hip-hop and rap have been a part of the city’s nightlife culture. “This is party music,” he says. “It’s music that groups [of friends] go to, couples go to – it’s who comes to Las Vegas.”

In fact, Wu-Tang Clan’s show comes on the heels of several recent hit R&B residencies. Pop-R&B diva Mariah Carey brought her Lambs to the Colosseum Caesars Palace for two residencies (#1 to Infinity from 2015–2017 and The Butterfly Returns from 2018–2020), Bruno Mars and Anderson. Paak’s supergroup Silk Sonic hosted two runs of An Evening with Silk Sonic at Dolby Live at Park MGM in 2022 and 2023, and R&B superstar Usher just wrapped up a whopping 100 dates of his My Way residency at the Colosseum. Despite the risk the Colosseum took when it released tickets for Usher’s concert in the middle of the pandemic, the show was a success, even bringing in star-studded audience members like Doja Cat, Issa Rae, and Keke Palmer.

“Usher doing it just gave people the extra really firm belief that [R&B and hip-hop] could be tenable out here,” says Reynolds.

Brittnay Proctor-Habil, Assistant Professor in Race and Media at The New School, sees this moment as inevitable, since "rap music is now undeniably popular music."

"In recent years, Black music stars have been able to break into the format of the Vegas residency, which has been reserved for white women pop stars like Celine Dion and Britney Spears," she says. "With Usher’s Las Vegas residency, I think there’s been a shift in how some of these casinos see the 'viability' of Black headliners for residencies."

The first official hip-hop residency also piggybacks off the success of smaller sets and club residencies done by A-list rappers: In 2016, Lil Jon MC-ed a residency at Hakkasan where he spun a set of party bangers, Grammy winners like Cardi B and Drake both have performed club residencies (at KAOS and XS Nightclub in 2019, respectively), and T-Pain has one coming up at Zouk Nightclub and Ayo Dayclub, among others.

Wu-Tang Clan
Wu-Tang Clan | Getty Images

When The Saga Continues… was announced in December, Wu-Tang Clan’s ringleader, RZA, told The New York Times, “I’m in that spirit of loving where there’s a hub of art and then loving that I—in my talent and the Wu-Tang brothers—can add to that hub and of course eventually invite more hip-hop artists to come and play in this sandbox with us.”

It seems likely that The Saga Continues… will be the catalyst for even more concerts of that caliber for rap stars, especially now that the genre celebrated its 50th anniversary and there are generations of hitmakers with extensive catalogs worth showcasing.

As the reputation of headlining a residency has done for other artists in recent years, hip-hop performers could further secure their icon status among not just their fandom, but also within the industry and pop culture at large.

"I think these opportunities—for better or for worse—legitimate the careers of veteran hip-hop/rap artists," says Proctor-Habil.

Turner-Williams echoes the sentiment, while mentioning how it could specifically give respect to "pioneers of the genre" among contemporary hip-hop fans and the industry. She sees the potential for solo shows or lineups with East Coast and West Coast rappers (such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg and The Jungle Brothers, A Tribe Called Quest, and Queen Latifah), and Proctor-Habil thinks there could be excitement building upon the R&B trend with residencies for stars like Mary J. Blige and D'Angelo.

Residencies could also be extremely financially viable for these artists. Usher’s original run of 14 shows in 2021 reportedly grossed $12.9 million; compare that with the $18.8 million that Wu-Tang Clan and their tourmate Nas brought in across their 2023 worldwide tour, according to Billboard. Artists have the potential to make a killing by staying in Vegas—all the while forgoing an exhausting touring schedule, as other residency acts before them have done.

The Wu-Tang Clan residency opens this weekend, but there’s already a roster of rap and hip-hop shows waiting in the wings. Former boy band and '90s hitmakers New Edition take to the stage at Wynn’s Encore Theater in early March, and the R&B quartet Jodeci—who frequently experimented with hip-hop sounds and collaborated with rap artists—will play The Party, The After Party, The Vegas Residency at House of Blues Music Hall in Mandalay Bay in March and July. According to Reynolds, “there’ll be more to come” from Wu-Tang, too.

“It’s exciting,” he says. “I think it’s exciting for me as a promoter, and if you’re a hip-hop or R&B artist, exciting for you. This is a new chapter, and so far it’s up to a great start.”

Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.
Sadie Bell is the former Associate Culture Editor at Thrillist and a contributor who covers music, pop culture, and nightlife.