It’s 8:30 p.m. local time outside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and I have no idea what the hell is going on.
It’s dark, soggy, and cold, after a rare rainy day in Los Angeles. I’m searching for the entrance to the venue, located right outside of the University of Southern California’s campus, with hundreds of other concertgoers who are wearing a scattered variation of Certified Lover Boy and Donda merch. Because the Memorial Coliseum is so big, I end up getting lost and have to walk 15 minutes to the opposite side of the stadium to find my gate.
During my stroll, I find myself behind a group of USC students who are talking about the show. I ask if they have any expectations going into it, and one of them promptly answers, “I just want to hear the classics.”
Well, he probably went to sleep happy, because if Kanye West delivered anything during Thursday night’s Free Larry Hoover benefit concert, it was the classics.
So, how did we get here? With J Prince puppeteering behind the scenes, Kanye West and Drake’s contentious relationship has seemingly been mended, one menacing finger-gun photo opp at a time. As a result, the two rap giants agreed to perform together for the first time since 2016’s OVO Fest, for a Free Larry Hoover benefit concert at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Dec. 9.
As the name suggests, the purpose of the show is to help free Larry Hoover, co-founder the infamous Black Gangster Disciples Nation, who is currently serving six life sentences at the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Security Facility in Florence, Colorado, for a gang-related murder in 1973 and for continuing to run the Gangster Disciples from prison in 1997. Many, including Ye, believe Hoover’s sentencing was excessive, given the nature of his crimes, and that the 71-year-old has served enough time.
Kanye has been trying to commute Hoover’s life sentence for a while now. During his infamous visit to the White House to meet with Donald Trump in 2018, Ye sought clemency for the former gang leader (among other topics). Later, Kanye connected with Hoover’s son, Larry Hoover Jr., who appeared on Donda’s “Jesus Lord” and “Jesus Lord Pt. 2,” where he left a voice note pleading for his father’s freedom. Hoover Jr. also joined Ye during the second half of his Drink Champs episode and vouched for his father.
Hoover Sr. was aware of the charity show before it took place, and while he planted the seed to help bring Ye and Drake together, according to J Prince, his son said he had some concerns about how the concert might affect him negatively, with Hoover Jr. saying, “He’s concerned that it may affect him negatively because it’s showing his influence, but his influence is positive. Him being an influential person, it just won’t disappear.”