It’s over. Two pop music titans, Kanye West & Drake, finally came to an agreement last night at the L.A. Center. Coliseum. J Prince, the music mogul and peace broker, brokered a deal between the two based upon their shared interest in Larry Hoover’s release. Hoover was an infamous Chicago gang leader. The pair exchanged hits for two hours and made compliments on each other. They also talked about their religious beliefs. The main messages from this show are as follows:
This concert featured friendly competition and a focus on being friendly
There is a bad blood between them: verbal shots were exchanged between their crews.—West’s G.O.O.D. Music and Drake’s Young Money—for years. The rift hit its apex in 2018, when West’s close ally Pusha T traded vicious diss tracks with Drake, with the former publicly revealing that Drake had a son in “The Story of Adidon.” Drake would accuse West of spilling This personal detailYou can find it hereo Pusha T, and proceeded to subtly diss West on the number one Travis Scott hit “SICKO MODE.” This year, Drake and West traded barbs in the press, on social media and in songs, with Drake going so far as to Leak a song Donda that featured André 3000.
The pair did agree to come to an agreement last month in order to increase awareness about prison reform advocacy. They appeared happy to return together on Thursday. They entered the stadium striding down the stairs shoulder to shoulder; when they got up onto the stage—a giant, barren white landscape that looked either like a hockey rink or a UFO—they hugged and exchanged heartfelt handshakes. They performed each other’s songs enthusiastically: West sang Drake’s 2010 hit “Find Your Love” (although he struggled to stay on pitch), while Drake returned the favor with a soulful version of “24.” “L.A.’s not finished, Ye’s not finished, Drake’s not finished,” he crooned. Later, West remarked on their collective accomplishments: “It’s like a hundred million hits between the both of us…we’d be out here for three days,” he said.
Kanye claimed Drake the present, Drake the past
In this Verzuz era, Social media users have demanded a music battle between these two stars. The Get Champs podcast last month, West stoked the flames by saying that if he were to conduct a face-off with Drake, “I’m winning every situation.”
While the concert wasn’t officially a Verzuz battle, the subtext loomed over the night, and it was clear that each of them took the assignment very seriously. West came out swinging by energetically steamrolling through his biggest hits in semi-chronological order: “Jesus Walks,” “All Falls Down,” “Gold Digger,” “Stronger,” “All of the Lights.” It was a clear reminder that he’s ruled the past two decades of hip-hop and pop; that his body of work is nearly unparalleled. Drake acknowledged as much onstage, calling it a “dream… to be on stage with one of my idols while he’s running through one of the best catalogs in music, period.”
Drake decided to go against West and try to make West hits for West, instead he took an entirely different approach: he used the concert as a platform for his new album. Boy Certified to Love. “I came to do some new sh-t for you all,” he said, and fans at the stadium responded enthusiastically, crying out in excitement from the very first synth notes of “Girls Want Girls” (167 million Spotify streams) and screaming every word to “Way 2 Sexy” (228 million streams). While West’s throwback songs came from 2004, the earliest songs Drake performed during his set were from 2018 (“God’s Plan”). It was an intelligent tactical joke: it reminded us that, while West may have a larger catalog, Drake still remains the largest, if any, artist. ThePop star with the largest following today.
Kim Kardashian was the direct target of West’s plea
For the last decade, one of the marquee moments at any Kanye West show is the outro of his 2010 opus “Runaway.” He uses the tortured song as a confessional, an opportunity to monologue, his most dark or controversial thoughts. While he typically delivers these rants in autotune, West instead stripped back the outro to just piano and voice, singing over and over: “When you run away, I need you to run right back to me.” And at the end, he left no ambiguity about who he was singing the song to: “Run right back to me/ More specifically, Kimberly.”
Later in the show, West delivered a Kim Suite of sorts, first singing “Bound 2”—a 2013 love song detailing the early days of their relationship—before cutting himself off and launching into “Come To Life,” his heartbreaking recounting from this year that details the crumbling of their relationship. After singing the line “You know exactly where to find me,” he covered his face with his hands seemingly in anguish, and cameramen walked toward him slowly from all sides, as if personifying the oppressive glare of the spotlight. This was a very vulnerable moment during a night that is dominated by bombast.
West has censored an insensitive lyric
For the concert’s last song, the pair reunited one final time to perform their 2009 collaboration “Forever”; it marked their origin stories and how far each has come. But the song’s performance was notable for another reason: rather than deliver an off-color lyric about statutory rape, West instead rapped, “nope, nope, nope,” and laughed uncomfortably.
Mike Dean was truly the MVP
The producer Mike Dean has long been West’s right-hand man, contributing in some way to nearly all of West’s studio albums. In more recent years, he’s joined West on tour to play synthesizer, piano and guitar. On Thursday, he never appeared visually, but dominated the night sonically by adding unpredictable instrumental jolts to West’s pristine production. He added a strobe-y synthesizer to “Touch The Sky” and menacing feedback on “Black Skinhead.” He absolutely shredded the riff to “I Wonder” on guitar, and his luscious piano noodling on “Runaway” was the ideal backdrop for West’s sermonizing to Kardashian. While Drake and West themselves more or less performed each other to a draw, it was Dean’s vital musicianship that pushed West’s set over the top.