In a big end to an even bigger year for the artist, Ye got together with Drake for a concert dubbed ‘Free Larry Hoover Benefit Concert’. Streamed on Amazon Prime and accompanied by a line of merch co-created with Balenciaga’s Demna, this was one of the most hyped events of recent weeks for music and fashion fans alike.
And it delivered, giving us endless meme content, clips of Drake dancing and Ye’s public outcry for Kim to get back with him at the end of Runaway. The whole concert was held in efforts to raise awareness of Larry Hoover, the Chicago gang leader serving six life sentences in Colorado for offenses including murder, extortion and money laundering. Two tracks on Ye’s Donda album incorporate recorded messages of the prisoner’s son, Larry Hoover Jr., on the impact his father’s incarceration had on the family and the need for prison reform.
After publicly feuding with Drake for the best part of the last year, it was at least interesting, and at best monumental, to see the two come together, park their feud and perform for the benefit of an incarcerated man. The message was about forgiveness and friendship – in the musical and political worlds.
It was also, however, about merch. While some online critics wondered whether the whole Drake vs Kanye beef was actually a way to sell their albums’ merchandise this year, the two coming together also provided the perfect stage for a new capsule collection, engineered by Balenciaga. The #FreeHoover capsule was available to preorder on Amazon, and consisted of a hoodie, t-shirt, baseball tee, hat, jumpsuit and upcycled Levi’s. The colour palette was predominantly baby blue (minus the hat), and Demna’s influence on the collection particularly stood out on the oversized silhouettes and updated denim jeans, which were more than reminiscent of his Vetements days. Slogans read ‘FREE HOOVER’, splashed across the jeans, hats and tees.
While proceeds from ticket sales for the concert will reportedly benefit a number of criminal justice reform groups, profits from merch sales are not going to charity, a rep confirmed. There was also the fact that Larry Hoover himself was not mentioned once during the broadcast. However, with the merch messaging so clear, placing it on Amazon’s front page is sure to get the campaign noticed, and bringing together two of the biggest artists of today was no mean feat. ‘No publicity is bad publicity’ never rang truer.