A report from Ye and Drake’s Free Larry Hoover concert
The rivals smoothed over their beef on Thursday night in LA, at a benefit for the campaign to free the long-imprisoned gang leader. Here's a rundown of what happened, and why Larry Hoover matters to the two superstars.
So it seems that the most high-profile beef in music has been quashed. On Thursday night, Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, and Drake shared a stage for the Free Larry Hoover Benefit Concert in Los Angeles.
With a reported budget of $10 million; a crew of 200 people building a massive, sand-coloured, land art-style mound for a stage in the middle of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; and a simultaneous stream of the show on IMAX screens and Amazon, the show was a massive undertaking for two massive artists.
The show was also intended to be a significant moment in the campaign to free Hoover. Now 71, he was one of the co-founders of the Gangster Disciples gang in Chicago. In the 1970s, Hoover was convicted of ordering a murder and sentenced to 150 to 200 years imprisonment. In 1997, a federal jury convicted him of 40 counts related to his leadership of the gang in prison, for which he was given additional life sentences. Proceeds from this week’s concert will reportedly go to a number of nonprofits that work towards prison reform, legal reform and community advocates.
Following a performance from the Sunday Service Choir – who sang Fugees’ Ready or Not, Adele’s Easy On Me and Ye’s own Ultra Light Beam, Ye opened the show with Donda cut Praise God, and the rumbling bass made the almost century-old coliseum rattle and shake. What followed was a crowd-pleasing rundown of some of his best known songs from his songbook, which the multicultural and multi-generational crowd knew just about every word to.
At one point, clouds of smoke erupted from the earthwork stage, a choir erupted and Drake came out singing a stirring rendition of Donda song 24.
Later in the show, as Drake ran through tracks from this year’s Certified Lover Boy album, he stopped to thank both the crowd and Ye, calling him one of his idols.
“I appreciate you so much. I appreciate Ye, I appreciate Larry Hoover Jr,” Drake said later in his set, the first and one of the few mentions of Hoover – albeit via his son – in the show.
Ye then returned for an encore, performing songs such as Father Stretch My Hands Pt.1, Bound 2. For the finale, Drake and Ye shared the stage to perform Forever, the 2009 track they both appeared on alongside Lil Wayne and Eminem.
“Kanye forever, man,” Drake said.
“Drake forever, man,” Ye added.
So what was this beef about in the first place?
To fully unravel why the two of the biggest celebrities in popular music were fighting in the first place would probably require you to have a moderator position on either the HipHopHeads subreddit or the Kanye To The forum. But here’s the summarised and abridged version of events.
Drake and Ye have fluctuated from being friends to falling out for around 10 years now. But the tensions seemed to get worse in 2018, when Pusha T – the president of GOOD Music and Ye’s close ally – traded diss songs with Drake. In Duppy Freestyle, Drake insinuated that he had a hand in writing some of the songs on Ye’s 2016 album The Life of Pablo.
The beef ebbed and flowed, climaxing with Pusha’s particularly nasty track The Story of Adion, in when he revealed that Drake had a son. Things seemed to cool-off for a while, but in August this year, tensions between the two superstars were reignited by some of Drake’s lyrics on Trippie Redd’s song Betrayal, to which Ye responded by posting (and then deleting) Drake’s Toronto home address on Instagram.
After all of that, the beef apparently came to an end thanks to J. Prince, CEO of Rap-A-Lot Records and hip-hop’s go-to enforcer. Billboard reported that after Ye’s appearance on the Drink Champs podcast last month, Prince reached out to Ye and then Drake to mend the beef, so they could come together to raise awareness of Larry Hoover and advocate for his release.
For the past 24 years, Hoover has been incarcerated at ADX Florence Prison in Colorado, the “Supermax” facility which also houses cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, al-Qaeda co-founder Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols and the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, among others.
Hoover’s family maintains that Hoover has repudiated his past actions and wants to use his influence as a positive force in the world.
In 2018, Ye met with then President Donald Trump to try to convince him to pardon Hoover. On Ye’s most recent album, Donda, the track Jesus Lord ends with an impassioned message from Larry Hoover Jr, advocating for his father’s release and thanking Ye for speaking to Trump about his father.
“You may have heard of Larry Hoover as the leader of the Gangster Disciples,” said Larry Hoover Jr when he joined Ye on the Drink Champs podcast. “You never heard of Larry Hoover as the leader of the community, that was organising, that brought people together.”
Hoover’s family has advocated for Hoover to be released under the First Step Act, a law signed by Trump in 2018. It’s supposed to give federal prisoners convicted of nonviolent drug offences a chance to receive a reduced sentence. But in July of this year the same judge that ruled on Hoover’s federal trial in the 1990s, US District Judge Harry Leinenweber, denied a bid to reduce Hoover’s sentence.
If Hoover’s federal sentence is reduced or overturned in the future, he would still have to serve his previous state murder conviction.
Whether or not Ye’s efforts will help Hoover remains to be seen. Equally, with very few mentions or explanations about his case at the show, it’s hard to judge if this week’s benefit event will encourage more sympathetic views on Larry Hoover, or if it will primarily be remembered as the night two superstars finally stopped squabbling.