Kanye West and Drake meet for the first time at a concert to demand the release of a former gang member

Kanye West during the presentation of ‘Donda’, in 2021, his last album.Getty Images

After being marginalized for decades, rap has once again tasted its massive cultural conquest in the United States this Thursday night. Kanye West and Drake put their differences aside and joined forces with some 70,000 people in Los Angeles to demand the release of Larry Hoover, a former Chicago boy serving a 200-year prison sentence. West has turned the weight of his figure, one of the most important in the entertainment industry, in securing the freedom of Hoover, an issue that even elevated President Donald Trump on a visit to the White House in October 2018.

With that meeting in Washington, West managed to get Trump to pardon Alice Marie Johnson, an African-American who had been in prison for a life sentence of 22 years for a first offense, possession of cocaine and money laundering. Johnson, who has become an activist to reform the prison system, was in charge of starting the evening at the Los Angeles Coliseum this Thursday, packed with the promise of seeing two rap stars seal the peace distanced by professional rivalry and that this year they released albums days apart.

In her words, Alice Marie Johnson reminded the audience of the power of protest. “Larry Hoover made a mistake when he was 23 years old. That error does not define it. When a person goes to prison, his whole family goes to prison with him. We live in a system that does not believe in redemption, ”he said at the top of the steps of the stadium, which will be 100 years old in 2023 and which was built as a memorial to the fallen of the First World War. Thousands chanted “Free Larry Hoover!” as if the scream depended on West jumping on stage. The show started with a delay of more than an hour and a half.

Tonight was the first stadium concert in five years for Kanye West, who now calls himself Ye. The last time he sang for such a large audience was during the San Pablo tour, which was abruptly canceled in November 2016 because the singer suffered from mental health problems. This was also Drake’s public comeback since the tragic Astroworld concert in Houston, where a dozen people listening to rapper Travis Scott died.

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The Sunday Service, West’s accompanying gospel choir, was the first to fill the chilly downtown Los Angeles night with notes. They did it singing songs by the Fugees, Adele, the the fortune by Carmina Burana and, finally, Ultralight Beam, the theme of The life of Pablo, from West, which says “this is a dream of God.” This is what was heard when Ye and Drake went down the long stairway together to the stage, a huge raised platform that assimilated a newly landed spaceship and from which smoke did not stop during the entire presentation.

There was no trace onstage of the erratic West that has made headlines in recent years. Nor the provocateur who summoned Marilyn Manson, accused of sexual abuse, and Da Baby, who made homophobic comments at a summer concert, to the launch of his latest album. Only one star was shown willing to break that five-year silence with a total dedication to the audience. Wrapped in a perpetual haze and clad in a kind of tracksuit with the legend “free Hoover” (free Hoover) he sang songs from his entire career such as Gold Digger, Touch the sky, Stronger, Mercy, Runway y N****s in Paris y Jesus Walks, with which he opened by saying “let’s go back to day one,” a gesture of reconciliation with Drake.

The architect of the long-awaited reunion was J. Prince, a Houston businessman who met with West inside the Rothko chapel in the Texas city. Prince has been an important figure in the planetary liftoff of the Canadian rapper (Drake). He found common ground between both egos in the cause of Hoover, who is now 71 years old.

Minutes before the show started, which was broadcast worldwide on Amazon Prime, David, 32, was reading on his phone the Wikipedia entry of Hoover, a young man from Chicago who dropped out of high school and became the leader of the Disciples. Gangster, the most powerful gang in the city with 25,000 members spread across 22 states and 66 cities.

Known as The King, Hoover was sent to prison in 1973 for the murder of a rival. In 1997 the authorities charged him with federal crimes for coordinating the organization from inside the jail, which moved up to $ 100 million annually. Since then, he has been sent to a maximum security center, where he has spent more than two decades in solitary confinement.

After the information David seemed confused. “Well, I don’t see much reason to get him out of prison, but hey, I’m here for the music,” he concluded after commenting that he was invited by a friend.

Prison has changed everything

People close to Hoover claim, however, that years in prison changed him. He turned the gang into a group for the development of the most marginalized; created an organization to register young people to vote for the first time; This formed gangs to clean streets and distribute food in the most marginalized neighborhoods; their members began to coordinate politically to demand better health clinics and educational programs in Chicago.

Perhaps this rebirth is the one that attracted so much attention from West, a rapper obsessed with his own reinvention. Donda It is the name of the rapper’s mother and the title of his most recent release. In this, Ye incorporates messages from Larry Hoover Jr., who asks for the release of his father on the issues Jesus lord Y Jesus Lord pt 2.

Despite the anticipation, Drake and West sang only a couple of songs together. Among these was Forever, that the duo originally performed with Lil Wayne and Eminem for a basketball documentary featuring Lebron James. West sang of Drake Find Your Love and the Canadian returned the gesture with 24. Moments before disappearing through an invisible hatch, Drake welcomed the invitation. “It’s very important. It felt like a dream, something unreal. He is one of my heroes ”, he confessed to the audience. West closed the concert. He was accompanied by Larry Hoover’s dreams of freedom in a dark Colorado prison.

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Kanye West and Drake meet for the first time at a concert to demand the release of a former gang member

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