Kanye West and Drake squash beef for ‘Free Larry Hoover’ benefit concert

There were reportedly 70,000 fans in attendance at West's $10 million production, livestreamed to more than 240 countries and territories.

Rap superstars Kanye West and Drake performed in a spectacular livestreamed concert Thursday night to raise awareness for former Chicago gang leader Larry Hoover and to advocate for his release from prison. 

Hoover, 71, has been incarcerated for more than five decades, per The BBC. He is in isolation at a supermax correctional facility in Colorado.

Thursday’s concert, held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, was livestreamed via Amazon Music and Amazon Prime Video, as previously reported. 

Kanye West (left) and Drake (right) performed in a $10 million concert livestreamed from Los Angeles Thursday night to raise awareness for former Chicago gang leader Larry Hoover and advocate for his prison release. (Photos: Brandon Magnus/Getty Images and John Phillips/Getty Images)

“We’re extremely proud to be working with Kanye and Drake on this historic concert in support of a cause they are both so passionate about, and to collaborate across Amazon for this epic entertainment event,” said Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, via press release.

The $10 million production — for which there were 70,000 fans in attendance, and livestreaming to more than 240 countries and territories — was supposed to begin at 11 p.m. EST but didn’t start until 12:30 a.m., 90 minutes late.

The night’s event began with brief words about Hoover, with a voice off-screen saying: “Larry Hoover was a man who made a mistake. When one person goes to prison, their entire family goes with them. Take out of your mind everything that you have read,” per Pitchfork

The Sunday Service choir then opened the show, performing renditions of popular hits like “Ready or Not” and “Easy on Me,” the new Adele single, launching into West’s classic, “Ultralight Beam,” as the two rappers entered the arena together. 

Ye then performed hits from several of his albums, College Dropout and 808s and Heartbreak; the rapper acted as his own censor and omitted some of the profanities from a number of the hits. During “Runaway,” the rapper made a plea to estranged wife Kim Kardashian West, singing, “I need you to run right back to me. More specifically, Kimberly.”

He also performed Drake’s 2010 hit single, “Find Your Love,” and the camera panned to the Canadian rapper singing along with West from a special platform. 

Drake then took the stage and performed several songs from his new album Certified Lover Boy, as well as some of his other hit songs, including “No Friends in the Industry” and “God’s Plan.” 

From the stage, he said, “When we were walking through the archway, it felt surreal, to be on stage with one of my idols as he runs though his catalog.”

Drake then turned the stage back over to West, who performed another handful of jams, including “Bound 2,” another song written for Kardashian West, who appeared in the 2013 music video. 

West and Drake have been at odds since 2017, when GOOD Music associate Pusha T clashed with the Canadian MC, releasing a diss song called “Story of Adidon.” The beef continued via ongoing subliminal shots in songs for years, until just weeks ago, when Houston music mogul J. Prince urged the rappers to “see the bigger picture.”

Pitchfork reports the rappers sold merchandise during the event, including Balenciaga T-shirts (priced at $100), hoodies ($200) and jeans ($400) emblazoned with “FREE LARRY HOOVER.” Both artists wore the items onstage, while Drake also wore a custom hoodie that read “Free the Mandem” on the back. 

Meanwhile, Hoover’s attorney, Justin Moore, has said he will continue to appeal to have Hoover released as part of the First Step Act, which was signed into law in 2018, aimed at cutting unnecessarily long federal sentences and improving conditions in federal prison, according to The Brennan Center.

Moore said, “We are cautiously optimistic that Larry, who is now in the twilight of his years, can show that he can re-enter society and adjust to life as a fully rehabilitated citizen.”

Howard University graduate Sakira Cook, senior director of the Justice Reform Program at The Leadership Conference Education Fund, issued a statement about the importance of the event after it began. The coalition of more than 200 national organizations that promote and protect civil and human rights in the United States addressed the disparities in the legal system.

“Most of us believe that everyone in America – regardless of their race or background – should be treated fairly. But for decades, America built and maintained a racially discriminatory system of mass incarceration,” Cook said. “It criminalizes millions of Black, Brown and low-income people and denies them opportunities, legal equality and human rights.

She called America’s criminal-legal system “a stain on our democracy.” Together, Cook contended, “we must reimagine public safety in our communities by centering justice and humanity over violence and criminalization and live up to our highest ideals.”

Have you subscribed to theGrio podcasts “Dear Culture” or “Acting Up?” Download our newest episodes now!
TheGrio is now on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku. Download theGrio.com today!