On Thursday night (Dec. 9), Kanye West and Drake will officially touch the stage together for the first time in five years in efforts to draw awareness to prison reform and bring justice to incarcerated Chicago gang leader Larry Hoover. The simmering feud between West and Drake ended last month after Rap-A-Lot Records CEO J. Prince intervened and urged both parties to squash their beef in light of promoting peace as two of hip-hop’s most prominent artists today.
“We have to start with the name Larry Hoover. He planted the seed,” said Prince in a phone call to Billboard Tuesday afternoon (Dec. 7). “He wanted to see Kanye and Drake come together in the name of peace. His son Larry Jr. was hanging out with Kanye a lot, and of course, Drake is my son, but [Larry Hoover] planted the seed, and I watered it.”
After years of sparring on the mic, the back-and-forth tussle between West and Drake intensified when the Chicago superstar posted Drake’s address on Instagram over the summer. Vexed by West’s decision, Drake sent a volley on Certified Lover Boy’s “7 AM in Bridle Path,” Days after, West returned the favor on his Donda deluxe standout “Life of the Party,” featuring Andre 3000, which was leaked by Drake on Sound 42 Radio.
West addressed his issues with Drake last month during his interview with Drink Champs, saying: “I felt like everybody should go to Drake and say, ‘You ain’t saying that to North, Saint, Chicago, and Psalm’s dad.’ He could be saying s–t that’s poking at me and driving me crazy, and then if I do something that seems crazy, then they’re just blaming me.”
Following the interview, J. Prince met with West to discuss extending an olive branch with Drake, and for a good cause: to help bring light to the former Gangster Disciples leader. Hoover, serving six life sentences for his alleged involvement in a gang-related murder from 1973, is seeking an early release. The conversation was an eye-opener for West, as he later invited Drake to join him on stage for his Free Larry Hoover Concert.
After a lengthy conversation with Prince, which highlighted the importance of bringing peace in hip-hop, Drake obliged and later patched things up with his “Pop Style” collaborator during Dave Chappelle’s comedy tour in Toronto. Later, the two posed for a photo alongside Prince outside of Drizzy’s mansion.
“The foundation has been laid for this to be a memorable moment, and I advise everybody to show up,” Prince relayed to Billboard ahead of the forthcoming benefit concert.”
Billboard spoke to Prince about being the peacemaker in Drake and Kanye’s testy feud, the conversations he had with both superstars and more. Check out the interview below.
Are you concerned about this concert being a short-term solution or do you think it can have lasting effects on Drake and Kanye’s relationship?
I hadn’t even given that a whole lot of thought because I know tomorrow is not promised. We kind of live in the moment and as far as I’m concerned, the future is bright. We don’t hold the future in our hands, but you just have to deal with things as they come.
When you and Kanye went on Instagram together, it kind of became a laughing moment on social, because everyone who knows your story believed you did some kind of scare tactics to convince him to make peace. What was the original conversation you two had inside the church?
It was an interesting conversation, but the furthest thing from the truth regarding any kind of force. I heard all kinds of rumors, and that was the furthest thing from the truth. To me, that moment was what I called an “anointing moment” — because none of it was planned. It wasn’t planned where we had that meeting in that particular church, but me being a man of God, I couldn’t deny the invitation to actually meet him.
From there, I kept it real with him. I spoke some words that came from my heart — and Kanye, he acknowledged it. He said, “I ain’t ever had anyone ever talking to me like that.” He was acknowledging me being brutally honest with him. I felt another level of bonding with him at that particular moment.
You mentioned earlier this father-son relationship you have with Drake. What was the conversation you had with him about ending the feud?
I painted the bigger picture to Drake. I let him know that this is a moment and movement that can save lives. I believe by Drake and Kanye being an example, as two of hip-hop’s top artists, that lives would be saved. I believe this is going to be imitated and it’s important to be an example to those that look up to you and that meant something to Drake — just the life-saving event wrapped around putting the spotlight on the injustice, prison reform, and my brother Larry Hoover. Everything is icing on the cake after that, because he never envisioned things like that. So I had to tap into a power greater than the anger or whatever these guys had for one another.
I thought the timing of their truce was interesting, especially after the passing of iconic fashion designer Virgil Abloh — a close friend of both Kanye and Drake. Do you think his untimely demise can also strengthen the relationship between Drake and Kanye beyond this concert?
Most definitely. Virgil was a guy that both of them loved very deeply. I know how they feel about him in their hearts. So, most definitely, conversations took place with both of them that I’m not even knowledgeable of. But Virgil loved both of them — he never would choose sides. I know that it bought joy to his heart to have both of his brothers together before he passed. And if he was here, he would be at that show, rooting for them in the front row.
The last time Kanye and Drake touched the stage together was 2016 OVO Fest. After five years, what can fans look forward to Thursday night?
Well, I was shocked and surprised last night when I went to the stadium and saw the stage. It seemed like it was about fifty feet high, and was basically covering the whole field. This is going to be a historical show and an enlightening concert. You know, I can only imagine what’s going to on on a stage this big.