Lifestyle

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?

Design by Maitane Romagosa for Thrillist | Getty Images
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.

Getty Images
Getty Images
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 CrĂĽe, 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.

Courtesy Virgin Hotels Las Vegas
Courtesy 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.

Getty Images
Getty Images
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.”

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Sadie Bell is the former Associate Culture Editor at Thrillist and a contributor who covers music, pop culture, and nightlife.

Lifestyle

The Best New Bookstores in LA are Curated, Specific, and Personal

Discover a new favorite book, join a book club, and maybe even do some karaoke at the new wave of LA bookshops.

Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Innis Casey Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

A couple of years ago, the legendary Powell’s Books in Portland released a perfume designed to evoke the smell of a bookstore. The scent has notes of wood, violet, and the lovely and unusually precise word biblichor, the particular aroma of old books. The reality of the scent is what it is-mostly sweet and floral-but more important is the imagery it conjures. The best bookstores are both cozy and mysterious, familiar and surprising, with endless potential for discovery.

Los Angeles has a wealth of independent book sellers, including beloved legacy shops like The Last Bookstore, The Iliad, and Chevalier’s. But a new wave of bookstores has been growing over the last few years, shops that eschew the traditional one-of-everything mindset to focus on specificity, curation, and point of view. There are bookstores with themes, bookstores that double as event spaces, bookstores that reflect their neighbourhoods, bookstores that take inspiration from a specific person-whether that’s the shop owner, a historical figure, or a little bit of both-and so many more.

Like the niche-ification of the internet and the culture at large, these new and new-ish bookstores provide a space to discover books, ideas, and perspectives led by an expert, the kind of things that you may never have found on your own. They can also be a safe harbour for pure nerdiness, a place to dive deep into your favourite category or cause. To help you on your way, we’ve put together a list of some of the best new bookstores in LA, with a focus on curated shops with their own specific perspectives.

Photo courtesy of Octavia's Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf
Photo courtesy of Octavia’s Bookshelf

Octavia’s Bookshelf

Pasadena
Pasadena is a famously book-friendly city, with bookstore royalty in the form of legendary Vroman’s and its own literary alliance. Now it has one of the most exciting new bookstores too. Octavia’s Bookshelf is owner Nikki High’s tribute to the science fiction master Octavia E. Butler, who was a Pasadena native herself. The name of the shop provides a clue into High’s inspiration, titles she imagines Butler would have had on her shelves, with a focus on BIPOC authors. The storefront is small, but the collection is impeccably curated and the space is cozy and welcoming for readers of all backgrounds.

Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop
Photo by Mads Gobbo, courtesy of North Figueroa Bookshop

North Figueroa Bookshop

Highland Park
Vertical integration can be a beautiful thing, especially when it allows independent creators more control over their products. The new North Figueroa Bookshop is a shining example of the concept, a storefront built on a collaboration between two publishers, Rare Bird and Unnamed Press. North Fig features titles from those presses, of course, including lots of striking literary fiction and memoir, but it also features a curated collection of other books. They’ve made it a point of emphasis to serve the needs of the local Highland Park, Glassell Park, Cypress Park, and Eagle Rock community-there’s lots of fiction from fellow independent publishers, other general interest titles with a focus on California history and literature, and plenty of Spanish-language books.

Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby's Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop
Photo by Karen Cohen Photography, courtesy of Zibby’s Bookshop

Zibby’s Bookshop

Santa Monica
Speaking of vertical integration, there’s another new combined publisher and bookstore on the other side of town. Zibby’s Bookshop is the brainchild of Zibby Owens, Sherri Puzey, and Diana Tramontano, and it’s the physical home of Zibby Books, a literary press that releases one featured book a month. That system is designed so that each book gets the full attention and resources of the press. Owens is an author, podcaster, and book-fluencer, and she has become something of a lit-world mogul with a magazine, podcast network, event business, and an education platform too. The shop has a unique sorting system, built around a feeling for each book-in store many of the shelves are labelled by interest or personality type, like “For the foodie,” or “For the pop culture lover.” On their webshop, you can browse for books that make you cry, escape, laugh, lust, or tremble. There are recommendations from Owens and the staff, sections for local authors, family dramas, and books that have just been optioned. If this all seems a little overwhelming, you should probably avoid the section dedicated to books that make you anxious.

The Salt Eaters Bookshop

Inglewood
Inglewood native Asha Grant opened The Salt Eaters Bookshop in 2021 with a mission in mind-to centre stories with protagonists who are Black girls, women, femme, and/or gender-nonconforming people. Over the last year and change that it’s been open, it has also become a community hub, a place for Inglewood locals and people from across town to drop in, to see what’s new and to discover incredible works in the Black feminist tradition. They also host regular events like readings, discussions, and parties.

Lost Books

Montrose
Thankfully, legendary downtown bookshop The Last Bookstore’s name is hyperbole, and owners Josh and Jenna Spencer have even gone so far as to open a second shop, Lost Books in Montrose. Instead of the technicolour whimsy of the book tunnel at The Last Bookstore, Lost Books has a tunnel of plants that welcomes you into the shop, which opened in the summer of 2021. They sell those plants in addition to books, and coffee and vinyl too, which makes Lost Books a lovely destination and a fun little surprise in the quaint foothill town just off the 2 freeway.

Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe
Photo by Claudia Colodro, courtesy of Stories Books & Cafe

Stories Books & Cafe

Echo Park
Ok, this one is fudging the criteria a little-Stories has been open for almost 15 years. But over those years the shop has become a pillar of Echo Park community life, hosting readings, discussions, and events, and their cafe tables function as a de facto office for about half of the neighbourhood on any given afternoon. After the tragic recent passing of co-owner and Echo Park fixture Alex Maslansky it seemed like the shop’s future was in doubt, but thankfully after a brief hiatus co-owner and co-founder Claudia Colodro and the staff were able to band together to reopen and keep the beloved cafe and bookstore going strong.

Page Against the Machine

Long Beach
The name alone makes it clear what you’re getting at Page Against the Machine-revolutionary progressive books, with a collection centred on activist literature, socially conscious writing, and a whole lot of political history. The shop itself is small but the ideas are grand, with fiction by writers like Richard Wright, Colson Whitehead, and Albert Camus next to zines about gentrification and compendia of mushroom varieties. They also host regular readings and discussions.

Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte
Photo by Viva Padilla, courtesy of Re/Arte

Re/Arte Centro Literario

Boyle Heights
Boyle Heights has its own small but mighty combined bookstore, art gallery, gathering space, and small press in Viva Padilla’s Re/Arte. Padilla is a poet, translator, editor, and curator, and as a South Central LA native and the child of Mexican immigrants, she’s focused on Chicanx and Latinx art, literature, and social criticism. Re/Arte’s collection has a wide range of books, from classic Latin American literature to modern essays and everything in between. Re/Arte is also now the headquarters for sin cesar, a literary journal that publishes poetry, fiction, and essays from Black and Brown writers. There are always community-focused events happening too, from regular open mics and zine workshops to film screenings and more.

The Book Jewel

Westchester
Most bookshops host events, but few host them with the regularity of The Book Jewel, the two- year-old independent bookstore in Westchester. Their calendar is so full with readings, several different book clubs, signings, and meet and greets that there are sometimes multiple events on the same day. The shop also hosts a ton of family-focused readings, with regular storytime on Sunday mornings often followed by a talk with the author. It’s a great fit for the relatively low-key (but not exactly quiet) suburban neighbourhood, and it’s no coincidence that storytime lines up with the Westchester Farmers Market, which takes place right out front.

Reparations Club

West Adams
Most bookstores lean into coziness, aiming to be a hideaway for some quiet contemplation or maybe a quick sotto voce chat-not so at Reparations Club, the exuberant and stylish concept bookshop and art space on Jefferson. Owner and founder Jazzi McGilbert and her staff have built a beautiful and vibrant shop full of art from Black artists, including books but also records, candles, incense, clothing, and all sorts of fun things to discover. There’s a perfect seating area to sit and hang out for a while, and they host a range of wild and fun events from readings to happy hours, panel discussions to karaoke nights and more.

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Ben Mesirow is a Staff Writer at Thrillist.

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