When it comes to putting an epic beef to bed, you can’t say fairer than doing the deed at a super-over-subscribed stadium show that’s also been billed as one of the pandemic era’s biggest and flashiest events. Up until last month, the artist formerly known as Kanye West – in October the iconoclastic rapper legally changed his name to Ye – and Drake had spent well over a decade sniping at one another, but tonight they’re hugging, high-fiving and prancing around what looks like a giant man-made moon crater that oozes endless plumes of smoke. Beef? What beef?
The event is the Free Larry Hoover benefit at Los Angeles’ largest outdoor venue, the Memorial Coliseum, which fits a whopping 70,000 punters in the stands. That said, an al fresco show in December – even if we are in California – is a bit of a fandom tester. There’s a definite chill in the air and sale of ‘Free Hoover’ hoodies are possibly going at a brisker pace than they would be if it were the height of summer, even if they are a whooping $200. Fancy a pair of Free Hoover second-hand jeans instead? They’re double the price at $400. We stick with being cold.
For the uninitiated: the man who managed to bring these bickering superstars together is an incarcerated former gang member who has been behind bars for murder for almost 50 years, despite renouncing his violent past and taking on the mantle of community leader and force for change. The show’s opening speaker, criminal justice reform advocate Alice Marie Johnson – herself a former prisoner – puts it best during an impassioned 10 minute speech in which she discusses the injustices of the American penal system. “Sometimes what you hear about and what you read about is not the full story,” she declares. “Larry Hoover was a young man who made a mistake but that must not define him as a 71-year-old man.”
Ye has long been campaigning on behalf of Hoover, even asking Donald Trump to commute his sentence and featuring Hoover’s son on his recent ‘Donda’ album. Tonight exists to raise continued awareness for Hoover’s plight and following Johnson’s semi-sermon, Ye’s Sunday Service Choir enter the vast venue in formation, lining up on the stadium’s iconic steps like players in a Greek tragedy before delivering a stunning medley of The Fugees’ ‘Ready or Not’, Soul II Soul’s ‘Back To Life’ and Adele’s ‘Easy On Me’. If the show had stopped there, it would have already been a stone cold classic, but the next thing you know, Drake and Ye are stalking down the stairs together to rapturous cheers. Even a month ago, this behaviour would have seemed absolutely wild.
After starting out as mutually respectful peers, the pair ended up in a catty battle of bars, wits and straight-up trolling, starting when Kanye dropped Drake’s verse from an early version of 2010’s ‘All of the Lights’, which in turn led to Drake boasting of owning a bigger pool than Ye on ‘Summer Sixteen’, before Kanye took to Twitter to exclaim: “There would never be a Drake without a Kanye West”. They were still at it as recently as this August, with Ye leaking Drake’s home address on Instagram before they released their new albums within a few days of each other, both records featuring the prerequisite disses.
Then, in a surprise volte-face, Ye took to social media to address the feud, asking Drake if he’d take part in a show to support Hoover. “I believe this event will not only bring awareness to our cause but prove to people everywhere how much more we can accomplish when we lay our pride to the side and come together,” he said.
Quickly forgetting about the fact that tonight’s show started an hour-and-a-half late, the audience are instantly in raptures as Ye takes the first turn of the night on the smoke-spewing structure. Riding a relentless, hit-packed pace driven by some brutal, bone-shaking bass, it’s a set for anyone who might happen to miss the old Kanye. Taking in early classics ‘Jesus Walks’, ‘All Falls Down’, ‘Through The Wire’, ‘Touch The Sky’ and ‘Gold Digger’, Ye bounces about in dry ice that become so thick, it’s often impossible to see him or the stage. If reports that the show cost a humongous $10,000,000 to put on turn out to be true, we shudder to think how much of that literally went up in smoke.
After an hour of non-stop bangers (‘Stronger’!, ‘Black Skinhead’, ‘Runaway’!) and even more dry ice, Drake resurfaces during a frantic ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’. For his solo set proceedings become softer, smoother and somewhat more chill as he showcases his latest album, ‘Certified Lover Boy’, including the Right Said Fred re-rub ‘Way 2 Sexy’ and his strange lesbian-fetishising ‘Girls Want Girls’.
Kanye taps back in for an explosive ‘Ni****s in Paris’ and ‘Bound 2’, before making like a minister and thanking Jesus for his sacrifice. But tonight it turns out that you don’t need to have faith in anything other than the power of two talents at the top of their respective games to have a near-religious experience. Here’s to making up with your enemies.
‘Wants and Needs’
‘No Friends in the Industry’
‘Life Is Good’
‘Laugh Now Cry Later’
‘Girls Want Girls’
‘In The Bible’
‘Way 2 Sexy’
Kanye West played
‘All Falls Down’
‘Touch the Sky’
‘All of the Lights’
‘Say You Will’
‘Find Your Love’
‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’
‘Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1’
‘N****s in Paris’
‘Come to Life’