Drake has ghosted Kanye West’s epic “Free Larry Hoover Benefit Concert.” Not the show itself, which went off seemingly without a hitch at the Los Angeles Coliseum Thursday night, but the Amazon Prime Video streaming version of the concert. The Canadian rapper, who was billed in equally large type with Ye, is now mysteriously almost entirely absent from the edit of the show that’s now streaming, despite still being prominently featured in the graphics accompanying the video.
The current edit still has Drake making a long, grand entrance with West down the steps of the Coliseum at the beginning of the performance. And it still ends with West and Drake dueting on their joint hit “Forever,” followed by the two hip-hop titans walking off the stage together, triumphantly arm-in-arm. Missing: Drake’s entire 12-song set in the middle of the show.
What happened between the live broadcast Friday night on Prime Video and Twitch, which ran just over 2 hours, and the almost entirely Drake-free edit, which has been trimmed by 24 minutes? Reps for Drake, West and Amazon have not responded to Variety‘s requests for comment.
Fans on social media definitely noticed and have their own theories they’re sharing, including ones theorizing that some sort of renewed tension among the formerly beefing superstars caused Drake’s performance to be pulled. The more likely explanation is that Drake only signed off on having his solo performance broadcast live and not streamed in perpetuity, even though the original version of the show was still up for repeat streaming well into the following day. Drake may have restrictions in place that limit his exposure on certain streaming services, or he and his team did not provide approval for their own reasons.
The absence of Drake is not the only thing different about what Prime Video viewers are now seeing. Ye’s frequent collaborator, producer Mike Dean, posted on Instagram Monday that he’d given the video performance a remix. Fans have raved on social media about the high quality of Dean’s sonic upgrade, even as they’ve puzzled over Drake’s disappearance. (The video being temporarily yanked for aural reasons is unsurprising, given that Ye briefly pulled his own most recent album, “Donda,” from DSPs to replace it with a subtly different version.)
The new upload of Kanye's Free Larry Hoover Concert on Prime Video is 100% worth checking out
They significantly improved the audio and it sounds soo much better now. Drake's part got cut though for some reason.https://t.co/OoflGs2L77
— Squirt Reynolds (@SquirtReynoIds) December 14, 2021
A look at fan comments about the show indicates that the concert was still available as originally broadcast up until about 3 p.m. PT on Friday, the afternoon after the Coliseum broadcast. Soon after that, Twitter users began complaining that the show no longer appeared as an option on Prime Video, or even that the stream had abruptly halted in the middle of a viewing. On Saturday, fans noticed that the video had reappeared, sans Drake’s solo set. After that, the video was yanked at least once and possibly twice more, before being brought back, according to fan reports — this time presumably because of Dean making his audio improvements.
This latest mystery is just one of several head-scratchers related to the Dec. 9 show. Another being: Why was Larry Hoover, who is currently serving six life sentences (based on murder charges added after he was originally charged for a nonviolent offense), barely mentioned in a concert meant to raise awareness as well as funds in the effort to help free him?
Also not clear is how much money from the event will go toward benefitting Hoover’s defense fund or prison reform. A GQ article claiming that none of the proceeds from merchandise sales would be directed toward that effort was widely picked up and caused a media stir, given that the merch included items like a $200-plus Balenciaga-cosigned “Free Larry Hoover” sweatshirt. However, GQ revised its story with an addendum noting that reps now said at least some of the proceeds from merchandise would go to those charitable efforts.
The show also stirred some controversy over adjustable ticket prices, with some seats going for thousands of dollars at face value, before it was subsequently announced that the concert would be streamed live and for free on Prime Video. The video broadcast had the two performers just as obscured by constant, billowing clouds of smoke, but did offer better sight-lines (there were no video projections at the Coliseum, which holds about 70,000) and less chance of frostbite.
Still, the concert was generally well-received by fans both live and in person, partly for including a surprisingly healthy amount of West’s not-recently-performed hits, and the possibly one-time-only sight of the recently beefing headliners even covering each other’s songs, as part of their cheerful re-alliance. But if you weren’t watching Drake’s segment in something close to real time, you’ll just have to read all about it.