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Inside the ‘Free Larry Hoover’ show: What made Kanye and Drake’s reconciliation special

For almost three years, hip-hop mourned the dismantling of a friendship between two of the most iconic figures in the genre. While the summer of 2018 gave us albums from our beloved artists like ye and Kids See Ghosts from Kanye and Scorpion from Drake, the fallout from Drizzy and Pusha T’s beef led to continuously growing animosity between Ye and Drake.

That tension reached its peak this summer, while their respective albums Donda and Certified Lover Boy topped and competed on the charts in consecutive weeks. With a minor diss on a feature for Trippie Redd from Drake, subsequent screenshots from Kanye showing a text chain of subliminal threats and Drake leaking the coveted unreleased Ye track with Andre 3000, the beef was certified. But, Kanye finally budged, hoping to reconcile with Drake soon after.

In early November, West posted a video to Instagram accompanied by J. Prince, asking Drake to squash the beef and reunite with him for a joint concert to advocate for political prisoner Larry Hoover’s release from a 50-year prison stay. Drake was seen soon after hanging out with J. Prince and Larry Hoover Jr. Then Ye made the trip to Drake’s Toronto mansion to officially bury the hatchet, finalize the concert, post an epic picture to Instagram and enjoy an exclusive comedy set from Dave Chappell in the 6 God’s crib.

The next month, on Thursday (Dec. 9), the time had come for Drake and Kanye to share the stage together, as their reunion would stream on Amazon and IMAX. It was quite the spectacle.

As fans packed into the Los Angeles Coliseum on a brisk, windy California evening, simplistic “Free Hoover” T-shirts and hoodies sold for astronomic prices at the merch booths and delays, similar to the Donda listening parties, pushed back the start time by over an hour. As the attendees held their breaths in anticipation, the first person they would hear from was Alice Marie Johnson, a criminal justice activist who was recently released from her 20 year prison stay. She spoke highly of Kanye and Drake for setting their differences aside and coming together for this worthy cause.

After Johnson spoke for about 10 minutes, the crown waited around another 15 minutes for any more action. Then, the Sunday Service choir entered, congregating on the east side of the stadium under the massive torch that is a main fixture of the Coliseum. As Sunday Service has tended to do in their three year history under Kanye’s direction, they exceed excellent covers of songs like Adele’s new smash hit “Easy On Me” and Kanye’s “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1,” which was the song that ushered in the two men of the hour.

Ye and Drizzy descended upon the stadium through the east tunnel, walking side by side through the Sunday Service choir, in a moment that garnered many epic photos. As they neared the custom circular stage that was crafted solely for this event in the middle of the arena, they dapped up, Drake floated off to the side, and Kanye exploded onto the stage as his Sunday Service welcome transitioned into his 2021 Donda track “Praise God” with Travis Scott and Baby Keem filled the stadium speakers.

After this epic entrance, it only took seven words from Ye to take this crowd from excited to ecstatic: “Let’s take it back to day one.”

In a relatively unexpected turn, Ye immediately immersed the crowd into, essentially, an escapade through the greatest hits of his career, beginning with The College Dropout‘s “Jesus Walks.” After another nostalgic Dropout song in “All Falls Down,” Ye rounded out the first portion of his set with two of Late Registration‘s most famed songs (“Gold Digger” and “Touch The Sky”), a whopping five Graduation songs (“Stronger,” “Good Life,” “Flashing Lights,” “I Wonder” and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”), a stunning performance of 808s & Heartbreak‘s “Say You Will,” two My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy songs, including “All of the Lights” and a mesmerizing performance of “Runaway” which he extended into a plea for Kim K to ditch their divorce as he finished with “I need you to run right back baby, more specifically, Kimberly” causing the crowd to lose their minds, a thumping burst of energy with Yeezus‘ “Black Skinhead” and two of his most iconic singles in 2012’s “Mercy” and 2015’s “All Day.” Before leaving too, Ye made sure to pay homage to the special guest of the show by covering one of Drake’s first special moments and songs of his career, “Find Your Love.”

After Drake stood to the side and enjoyed himself by singing his heart out to his idol’s jams, it was his turn to take command of the stage, as he returned the favor by opening with a gorgeously sung cover of Kanye’s choir assisted “24,” which he has since teased the CDQ version of on Instagram. After this astounding start to his set, Drizzy rattled off 11 more songs with eight of them being 2021 hits. Two of the Scary Hours 2 EP bangers like”What’s Next” and “Wants and Needs” were sprinkled into a performance riddled with mostly Certified Lover Boy songs like the radio favorites in “Girls Want Girls” and “Way 2 Sexy,” as well as fan favorites like “Knife Talk” and “In the Bible.” To boost the set even more, Drake felt it fitting to scatter some more of his prior hits throughout the performance like “God’s Plan” and “Laugh Now Cry Later.”

Once the last note of “God’s Plan” played, Ye returned to the stage that resembled his latest Stem Player audio device for six more songs to cap off the night. Two uplifting tracks like “Hurricane” and “Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1” once more returned the crowd to a Kanye West headspace, and he treated them to more of his all-time hits like “N****s In Paris” and Bound 2,” which saw him light up the arena as he commanded that phone lights be turned on: “Put your cell phones up let me see the lights. Light it up, light it up, just like the Solar System tonight, light it up.”

Kanye welcomed Drake back on stage to end the show, igniting the attendees one more time by offering a joint performance of one of their only collaborations in 2009’s “Forever,” as fans all shouted Drizzy’s “It may not meaning nothin’ to y’all” hook back at him.

Fans could not have left more satisfied, as they had just witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime performance. And that’s what it truly was. Kanye West and Drake? On the same stage? Regardless of your feelings towards them, the “Free Larry Hoover” show was undoubtably a historic moment, as the two titans of hip-hop in the last 20 years put aside their petty differences and gave their beloved fans a night they would never forget.

Thank you Kanye and Drake, the rap game owes you a debt of gratitude for last Thursday night’s performance in L.A., and even more so for the memories and music you have given to us this millennium.