The highs and lows of Drake and Kanye's Free Larry Hoover benefit concert
The biggest modern rap beef has been squashed forever?
The event, live-streamed by Amazon, served as both a detente between the rap stars and a benefit concert to bring attention to Larry Hoover, an imprisoned Chicago gang leader in his 70s who has allegedly suffered decades of inhumane conditions while incarcerated.
Here EW takes you through the highs and lows of the biggest rap concert of the year.
Adele gets the Sunday Service treatment.
Although the stadium audience could barely pick up on their abstract formations, the gospel arrangement of Adele's smash single "Easy on Me" by Kanye's Sunday Service choir deftly lifted the crowds spirits.
We missed the old Kanye
While set lists floating around the internet initially promised a run of B-sides from the superstar pair, West surprised the audience with hit after hit after hit. "Jesus Walks" may have been expected, but the rapper went deep enough into his bag to pull out full performances of fan favorites including "I Wonder" and "Say You Will."
If there was a lull in West's initial set, it was when he basically hopped along to his posse tracks "Mercy" and "All Day" instead of performing them. He even skipped his memorable verse on the former altogether.
Most concertgoers had to do a double take before they realized it was West performing Drake's early hit "Find Your Love" in the middle of his set. The Toronto rapper later returned the favor, covering the emotional track "24" off West's new album Donda.
Virgil got one
Both artists took a moment to acknowledge their recently departed friend Virgil Abloh, the artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton. While West gave Abloh, his former creative director, a spirited shoutout during "Can't Tell Me Nothing," Drake made the lyric "Virgil got a Patek on my wrist," from his song "Life Is Good," a refrain that prefaced a moment of silence.
Not feeling the Lover Boy
It would be one thing if Drake went first and warmed up the audience with some selections from his new album Certified Lover Boy, but when you're following West giving the crowd a career retrospective, it's absolutely disappointing for you not to do the same. (At least Drake was transparent about the situation, saying he "came to do new sh–.")
While Drake's club-ready fare fizzled in the stadium setting, songs from West's Donda felt transcendent. TikTok favorite "Praise God" started West on the right note, and his return to the stage with the Weeknd-assisted "Hurricane" left the audience shaken, as the lyric "Father, hold me close, don't let me drown," boomed through the speakers.
Alice Marie Johnson gives a powerful speech
Johnson, the prison rights advocate West's estranged wife Kim Kardashian helped free, both narrated an affecting video package with re-enactments to show what Hoover's been through while incarcerated, and gave a rousing sermon that had the crowd of thousands chanting "Free Larry Hoover" by the end. (Though neither Kanye or Drake made mention of Hoover during their time on stage.)
While this may have not affected the audience at home, inside the stadium it was nearly impossible at times to see any of the performers due to the plumes of smoke blasted into the air. It made for an interesting on-screen effect for West and Drake, but ended up obscuring the Sunday Service choir, who were mostly heard but little seen behind the opaque clouds.
The Metro Boomin producer tag at the beginning of "Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 1" amped the crowd up — until listeners were reminded of the groan-worthy opening lyrics referencing a somewhat beyond-the-pale beauty procedure. Later, on "N***** in Paris," Kanye flubbed his singalong line "What's drugs, my killer?"
By the end of the show, West had made the Coliseum his ministry, having the audience turn on their flashlights to make the sea of people resemble a "solar system" to him. In a final prayer, he thanked everyone for coming, and preached what his faith means to him.
While West and Drake have collaborated a few times, there wasn't a better song of theirs to end the concert on than "Forever." Up on stage, red lights shining, the pair were at their prime, going back and forth rapping "I want this s— forever," until the victorious track faded out, and they walked off with their friendship convincingly renewed.