by Naba’a Muhammad and Charlene Muhammad
The Final Call
CHICAGO/LOS ANGELES—When Kanye West and Drake, giants in the hip hop and music industry, came together on stage in Los Angeles, it wasn’t just a cultural moment.
The concert was a sign of how music industry beefs can be squashed and how rich, powerful, talented and popular young artists can come together as an example of reconciliation and for a higher cause.
The “Free Larry Hoover Benefit Concert” at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was hailed by thousands as an incredible performance, music and message.
The mega-stars called for the release of Larry Hoover Sr., the 71-year-old legendary leader of the Chicago-based Gangster Disciple street organization which he has worked to change to a movement for Growth and Development. Mr. Hoover Sr. has been incarcerated for more than five decades. Though eligible, a federal judge has denied his release from solitary confinement for 23 hours a day, in the extremely isolated ADX Supermax federal prison in Florence, Colo.
“Basically this concert was a beautiful thing to spread awareness about my father and his situation on a global platform. I really didn’t know how we would get to this place where we got to,” Larry Hoover Jr. told The Final Call in an exclusive telephone interview.
“It’s just good to have the community behind this fight. Because without the world being behind this fight, they sweep it under the rug, and we haven’t had a chance to really give our narrative on who my father is and what he has done for his community and the things that he was trying to do,” he said.
“They always portray him in a negative light, and this was just the start of getting awareness out here; getting ourselves together in a position where we can fight, where we can help other people fight for prison reform. It’s just a beautiful thing,” Larry Hoover Jr. continued.
“And also it should lead the way for other artists to see how you can come together and make big things happen instead of being apart from each other and going through beefs and arguments that could lead to people losing their lives and jail time and things of that nature,” said Larry Hoover Jr. “So, it’s just a significant thing showing what can be done and hopefully leads the way for other great things to be done.”
His father was sentenced to multiple life sentences, but many agree with his son and want him released now. They see value in having Mr. Hoover Sr. out on the streets to help stop violence that continues to plague the Black community. Much of the violence today is actually purposely driven by groups, cliques, and gangs in their music.
The violence has played out in the world of hip hop with deadly beefs claiming the lives of artists and fueling conflict.
Iconic artists Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls were entangled in a conflict that would claim both their lives. Tupac Shakur died in Las Vegas in 1996 and Biggie Smalls was killed in Los Angeles months later in 1997.
Among other killings were the Rapper Drakeo the Ruler, who died Dec. 18 in Los Angeles, Young Dolph in Memphis, South Carolina rapper 18veno, New York rapper Pop Smoke and Chicago rappers Edai and FBG Duck. All were painful deaths.
As the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan asked during his closing address at a December virtual Nubian Leadership Circle summit, “Who’s feeding the filth over the radio that makes our young people rap in a foolish way?
“It’s not like the early rappers who rapped with knowledge of self, but today it’s filth, it’s indecency; it is debauchery,” he said. “It is the glorification of niggerism, the glorification of something that we should never call each other, ‘nigger,’ and make it seem like it’s something nice.”
From the early days of hip hop till now, the Minister has been a guide, a loving father figure who has worked to bring peace to the hip hop community. He is known for sharing his great love and wisdom with artists, and industry figures and mediating conflicts.
So Kanye West and Drake, who once had beef, performing together Dec. 9 was a watershed moment of possibility not just for two men but for a powerful, billion dollar, global music industry. As Billboard magazine noted, “It marked the first time Kanye and Drake were on the same stage since 2016.”
The event sold out the 73,000 seat venue, and also streamed live for freeto 93,000 on Amazon Prime Video, Amazon Music, and Twitch, and showed in select IMAX theaters across the country.
“Both me and Drake have taken shots at each other, and it’s time to put it to rest,” said Kanye, who has legally changed his name to Ye, in a video inviting Drake to join him on stage as a special guest to share their albums Donda (Kanye) and Certified Lover Boy (Drake), live in Los Angeles, with the ultimate purpose being to free Larry Hoover, Sr.
“I believe this event will not only bring awareness to our cause but prove to people everywhere how much more we can accomplish when we lay our pride to the side and come together,” said Kanye.
Gov’t condemnation and longtime gov’t plots
Federal authorities blasted the concert and any talk of releasing Larry Hoover Sr. The government condemnation wasn’t surprising and didn’t move many.
“I met with Ye to pass on the message from my brother Larry Hoover who said he would like to see peace between the two of them,” stated Jas Prince, CEO of the Houston-based Rap-a-Lot Records. He and its founder, J. Prince, discovered Drake. “I’m looking forward to all of us working together in unison to elevate our communities around the world,” read his social media post about his unplanned meeting with Kanye at Houston’s Rothko Chapel in November. Kanye, Drake and the industry executive later met at Drake’s home in Canada.
“It’s bewildering. I think if we put our heads together for five minutes, we could come up with 1,000—maybe more—causes that are more worthy to devote this kind of resources to,” said Ron Safer, the former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago who led a prosecution team that convicted Larry Hoover.
Mr. Safer criticized the University of Southern California, who owns the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, and Amazon for airing it to the world, the ABC News reported.
Wallace “Gator” Bradley, a longtime friend, confidante of Mr. Hoover Sr., sees an old U.S. plot and strategy still at work. The Chicago-based activist worked hard for the 1990s urban peace and justice movement and peace treaties that spread across the country to stem fratricidal violence. Those who had once been in street organizations worked to increase peace and promote life.
They were largely condemned, generally left unfunded while others copied their model and used it across the country. Those still working to bring peace to the streets often struggle to get and obtain resources and are accused of wrongdoing, despite their good work and reform efforts.
Mr. Bradley is clear the lockdown on Mr. Hoover Sr. is tied to government targeting of Blacks in leadership and potential leaders regardless of where they have influence.
He and others see ongoing, constant surveillance, infiltration and other efforts as determined work in the spirit and mission of the nefarious 1970s-exposed FBI Counter-Intelligence Program designed to neutralize, decimate and destroy Black organizations and leaders to preempt “the rise of a Black Messiah.” Cointelpro was devoted to protecting U.S., national security and maintaining America’s social and political order.
Among its targets yesterday, in the 1960s and 1970s, under FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover were the Nation of Islam, the Black Panther Party, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), civil rights groups and others. Also targeted were American Indian, Chicano and Latino rights groups, progressive Whites, and Communists–essentially anyone who challenged injustice and demanded change.
Performers and entertainers have long been targets of U.S. government surveillance and control going back decades.
Mr. Bradley sees a highly spiritual and practical message in the successful concert. God sent an undeniable zero tolerance message about senseless shootings and killings through the global concert, he said.
“There’s a zero tolerance to the rape and abuse of women and children. There is a zero tolerance to the abuse and robbery of our elders and seniors,” Mr. Bradley added.
The world witnessed a unified blow for peace that didn’t come out of a vacuum but stems directly from Minister Farrakhan’s decades of guidance and warnings to Stop the Killing, the first historic Gang Summit in Kansas City, Mo., in 1993 to the Million Man March in 1995, the activist said.
“This is a spiritual war that everyone has to realize is happening. No one saw that coming and were shocked that it happened. But that was global proportions and the man kept God first coming out his mouth,” he continued.
“A righteous tribute, and that’s not saying that not everybody else’s tribute is not righteous, but a righteous tribute for life is when Drake and Kanye stopped beefing with one another, because they realized other entities were driving their myths about the beef,” argued Mr. Bradley.
“It’s an honor to see two artists of this magnitude put focus on brother Larry Hoover, who could do more good out of prison than in. If the government was serious about bringing crime down, what better person to let out of prison to go back to Chicago to help undo some of the things that has been done in his name,” said Student Minister Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad, the Nation of Islam’s Western Region Headquarters Representative at Muhammad Mosque No. 27 in Los Angeles.
Minister Farrakhan wrote to former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger before the 2005 execution of reformed Crips leader Stanley “Tookie” Williams in the face of a worldwide movement to commute his sentence, saying how much of help he could be. “He’s reformed. He’s changed. Do not kill him, the same is true about brother Larry Hoover,” said Abdul Malik Sayyid Muhammad.
“And not only could he help Chicago, but if they let him out and allow him the latitude and the longitude to do his work, my God, not only will he help fix Chicago, but it will be a sound or shot heard around the world, that the world could benefit from what Allah has done for Larry Hoover, who has evolved,” he added.
Chuck Creekmur, AllHipHop.com founder/CEO, too was pleased by the unification forged with Jas Prince and his father J. Prince, the CEO of Houston’s Rap-A-Lot Records and a long time champion for Larry Hoover.
The hip hop editor would like to see the messages of more artists who are speaking consciousness and who are politicized match up with their causes to galvanize the masses. “For example, there are Free Larry Hoover merchandise, which is done by Balenciaga, and it’s extremely expensive so you know we’re not buying those items,” said Mr. Creekmur.
Mobilizing people and resources
Tickets for the production sold for $50-200. A reported $40 million was raised and some of the beneficiaries included non-profit organizations committed to helping ex-offenders and the incarcerated, including Chicago-based Ex-Cons for Community, Uptown People’s Law Center, and Hustle 2.0.
“There’s a very wide ranging audience because both Kanye and Drake have a very diverse audience, of course, seeing that 85-90 percent of hip hop music sales still come from predominantly Caucasian people,” said Enoch Muhammad, the founder of Hip Hop Detoxx, which uses a creative synthesis of writing, performance, music therapy, hip hop, and pop culture to teach and improve the lives of young people.
“From what I heard at the start of the concert, it’s more than just about Larry Hoover. It’s also really about the incarceration rates of Black and Brown and poor people in general, and just the unfair practices that have gone on for decades,” he said.
“Our people are so ignorant, they’ll ask you ‘Why Larry Hoover,’ but they won’t say a damned thing about the White man who brings the crack and the guns and things into our community,” commented Abdullah Muhammad, Nation of Islam National Prison Reform minister. “You’ve had this man in prison since 1972.
Then you wait all the way ‘til ‘97 and come at him talking about you federally investigated him and he’s making $100 million a year? If he was making that much money, as greedy as the lawyers and things in this system are, they would have taken that money and let him out of there!”
“Where’s the $100 million at? Ain’t none of the disciples that you say are still on the street got none of that money. They’re still struggling and trying to find out how to make an investment to take care of themselves and their family,” said the Chicago-based Muslim minister, whose mission is devoted to serving the incarcerated.
They don’t want us to have ‘redemption’
During a Revolt interview in December, Kanye shared how others, including wife Kim Kardashian, celebrities and artists like Jay Z and Meek Mill are fighting for criminal justice reform in different ways.
“That 13th Amendment needs to completely be eradicated,” Kanye said. It protects modern-day slavery under U.S. law that abolished involuntary servitude, except for those engaged in “illegal behavior.”
“When we shut up and dribble and we rap and we do all this, this thing is still in the Constitution,” said Kanye. “That’s the reason why it’s talks of me and Drake doing the concert to bring light to Hoover,” he said.
Mr. Hoover Sr.’s Growth and Development ideology is to help gang members turn their lives around by creating non-profits, providing jobs, giving back what they’ve taken from and helping to stabilize communities, many noted.
“That’s what they don’t want. They don’t want us to have a positive leader. They want us to not have the redemption,” added Kanye in the pre-concert interview.
Updates about the case can be found by following the Larry Hoover Project on Instagram, said his son, who is recorded thanking Kanye for championing his father’s fight for freedom on the song “Jesus Lord.”
“They came together for a cause bigger than themselves,” said Student Minister Ishmael Muhammad, National Assistant to Minister Farrakhan in Chicago. “We want all of our great organizers that are languishing in prison (freed). That brother has spent nearly 50 years in a federal institution, but he’s looking at a 150 to 200 years sentence in the state of Illinois,” he stated.
“These great men have learned something. Chief Malik or Jeff Ford, Larry Hoover, these are brilliant men. They are like political prisoners,” stated Ishmael Muhammad.
Before their imprisonment, approximately five to six street organizations, so-called gangs, existed in Chicago, but to date there are about 900, he noted, citing Chicago police stats.
“It’s a lot. Disorganized. All of those street organizations started with a righteous cause and got corrupted! But these men have learned, have grown, and have something to offer in the organization of our community and the organization of young men and women. So, we want all of our leaders that are languishing in prison to be free,” said Ishmael Muhammad.
“Kanye and Drake should be commended. That was very great, what they did. And it just shows you what our unity can produce,” he said during his lecture, “Redistribute the Pain—Jesus the Ultimate Revolutionary, Part 2,” delivered Dec. 12 at the Nation of Islam headquarters Mosque Maryam in Chicago.
“We’ve got to unite brothers and sisters. We must unite. That’s the only thing that will solve our problems. And unite behind the program of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad,” Ishmael Muhammad continued.
(Mustapha J.A. Muhammad contributed to this report.)