Kanye West & Drake Concert
For the first time in nearly a century, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the USC football stadium just south of downtown, was transformed into a lunar landscape: grey padding on the ground, a big plateau in the middle, and synthetic smoke that at times consumed everything it touched. However, because the Coliseum lacks a large TV screen, this benefit performance for convicted Gangster Disciples founder Larry Hoover could only be viewed on Amazon Prime, in person there was no indication that this event was part of a larger context.
Even though Kanye West is one of Drake’s primary influencers, their friendship has deteriorated in recent years. Throughout their music, they’ve exchanged veiled insults, with West’s Twitter feed, or through proxy, like in the Drake/Pusha-T feud of 2018, being the most explicit. Then, just a few weeks ago, Drake and Kanye West met at Drake’s Toronto home and worked over their issues, apparently at the insistence of the founder of Rap-A-Lot and a general hip-hop power broker J. Prince.
On Donda, West’s epic album from this year, Larry Hoover Jr., West’s father’s son, spoke about his relationship with his father. In 2018, West visited with President Trump and campaigned for the release of the elder Hoover, who has been a longtime obsession of West’s. Convicted of extortion and narcotics charges, Hoover Sr., who was sentenced to between 150 and 200 years in prison in 1973 for a murder, continued to run the Gangster Disciples from prison. His six life sentences are currently being served at a maximum-security federal prison in the state of Colorado, with him spending 23 hours a day in isolation. To help a variety of advocacy groups, concert proceeds and “FREE HOOVER” jeans sales are expected.
With each passing year, West’s one-off concerts become more elaborate. His Saint Pablo Tour was cancelled almost precisely five years ago, and he was hospitalized in Los Angeles. “Psychiatric emergency” led to weariness. The announcement came after meandering speeches applauding Donald Trump, slamming radio programmers, and venting issues with friends like Jay-Z and Q-Tip in Sacramento and San Jose, respectively. West performed from a platform suspended over the crowd, drifting across the breadth of an arena, before the Pablo tour came to a close.
Since then, West’s live events have gotten crazier in concept and execution, as evidenced by his 2019 Coachella performance with his Sunday Service choir, which necessitated the construction of a giant grassy mount, or his one-night-only opera about the biblical king Nebuchadnezzar II, later that year in Los Angeles. Overshadowing Donda were a series of album listening sessions, one of which included a faithful reconstruction of West’s childhood home in Soldier Field in Chicago. Lesser-known songs are typically recreated by the choir in his sets.
Aside from the occasional memory lapse or attempt to keep the runtime under control, West didn’t have much between-song banter on his older tracks (pasting the third verse into the first verse, etc.). He also chose to edit some songs but not others for their cursing. Early in the show, the performance lacked momentum. It wasn’t long until he was loose and transmitting the euphoric ecstasy he’d been working so hard to eradicate from his presentations. And he ended that song like Big Gipp from Goodie Mob, saying “Sky high.” On “Say You Will,” a Mike Dean electric guitar solo breaks up the often monotonous musical section. I think it was Ye’s best and most cohesive show since the Pablo tour.
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