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Ye And Drake’s “Free Larry Hoover” Concert At The LA Coliseum

Ye performing at Free Larry Hoover concert

Los Angeles is usually dry and sunny, but an unexpected rain was falling over the city of angels today while the temperatures were in the 50s and 60s. Jesus and God were not on Kanye West (Ye) and Drake’s side since December 9 was the day they had picked for their “Free Larry Hoover” concert at the LA Coliseum. The rain stopped before the concert but honestly who wanted to freeze their ass on a wet seat on a cold winter night? Not me! However, plenty of West and Drake fans had declared this was “the concert of the century” on social media… The prices of the tickets fluctuated for several days, and I suppose that this crowd buys tickets at the last minute because Ticketmaster finally declared the concert sold out about 1 hour before it started. To each their own

First of all, the event marked the reconciliation between Kanye West/Ye and Drake as the two rappers were supposedly not on great terms for some torturous and complicated reasons, their beef fueling many hip hop narratives. But they recently seem to have made amend with the help of J. Prince.

Then, the concert was a benefit aiming to free Larry Hoover, the co-founder of the Chicago street gang Gangster Disciples, who is serving six life sentences at a Colorado prison. A quick search returns serious business: Hoover was sentenced to 150–200 years for a 1973 murder and he has received a life sentence after an investigation proving he was running a continuing criminal enterprise by leading the gang from state prison. Is there something that escapes me here? Why are Kanye and Drake willing to free a criminal? I know they want to raise awareness about important questions like prison conditions and sentencing reform, but couldn’t they find someone else who deserves the attention? Someone who has been wrongly accused and imprisoned? Does Larry Hoover deserve to be free?

Fully endorsed by Amazon, the show was streamed on Amazon Prime and Amazon Music Twitch TV, and the 8 pm concert time was pushed to 9 pm, a good thing since, at 8 pm, the coliseum still looked very empty according to Twitter. According to the photos and videos, a large platform was built in the middle of the stadium, and altogether (stage construction/production, space rental, security, event staffers…) the budget of the show was estimated at $10 million.

A recorded voice on tape, repeating the safety rules of the Coliseum over and over, was played over whoever was talking to the crowd before the show, and that was weird. At  9:20, 9:25, there was still no trace of Ye & Drake and this made a lot of people joke “I think Larry Hoover will be set free even before this concert starts.”

A bunch of people finally appeared on the steps of the coliseum around 9: 30 pm and formed a beautiful, powerful operatic choir starting with a well-known opera cut… then followed by an Adele remix of “Easy on Me” and maybe “Ready or Not” by The Fugees. For 15 minutes or so, it was just the choir, solemn, church-y music performed acapella, then Kanye and Drake finally arrived, walking down the steps of the Coliseum and looking like the kings of the night that they were… Kings wearing “Free Hoover” prison-style clothes and rain boots with orange gloves for Kanye.

The setting was impressive, a large surface that looked like the moon surface or a glowing UFO disappearing behind fumes and fog. For a long time, it was Kanye alone, performing at his best, with plenty of passionate moves and tones, but I know so little about his music, it’s embarrassing. It nevertheless sounded like the old classics from “Gold Digger” to “Touch the Sky” to “Runaway,” I was even surprised to recognize the songs. He certainly gave an energetic performance under heavy fog machines, walking on a surface that looked like a fuming crater or the mothership. Kanye even covered Drake’s hits to make sure Drake had nothing left to perform when he finally gets on stage. For a long time, the concert looked like a Kanye gig with Drake cheering at the bottom of the platform, then Drake finally got there… Overall they performed songs of each other but spent little time on stage together.

Things I have learned (but that I already knew)

  • I still hate, hate, hate autotuned vocals, I never understood the appeal and never will.
  • Drake’s music is, by far, less bearable than Kanye’s: this is not even comparable. Drake was boring.
  • Kanye can’t stop preaching about Jesus, he did it at the end of the concert whereas I thought he would mention Larry Hoover?
  • Drake and Kanye may be best friends again (who knows?) but their performance still looked like a competition, and I have the impression that many fans perceived the show like some Olympics of rap.
  • I am the last person who should talk about rap.

Meanwhile, Free Larry Hoover merch, with the most simplistic design you can imagine, was advertised online by Amazon, and as expected, this was overpriced: a shirt for $100, a hoodie for $200, and jeans for $400! The design looks like it was printed at some cheap street mall t-shirt shop, but there is a more important question: should we believe that all the merch money and all the proceeds are going to Larry Hoover’s defense team? I still have a hard time understanding how a concert is going to free someone who has been sentenced to 200 years.

Setlist

Ultralight Beam
Praise God
Jesus Walks
All Falls Down
Gold Digger
Touch The Sky
Stronger
All of the Lights
Black Skinhead
All Day
Mercy
Good Life
Flashing Lights
Say You will
I Wonder
Find Your Love
Runaway
Can’t Tell Me Nothing with Drake
24
Wants and Needs
No Friends in the Industry
What’s Next
Life is Good
IMY2
Laugh Now Cry Later
In the Bible
Girls Want Girls
Way 2 Sexy
Knife Talk
God’s Plan
Hurricane
Father Stretch my Hands Pt.1
Ni**as in Paris
Bound 2
Come to Life
Forever

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