When Ye and Drake set aside their feud and take the stage together Thursday night for a concert the guest of honor will not be there in the LA Memorial Coliseum.
In fact, Larry Hoover Sr., the co-founder of Chicago’s Gangster Disciples street gang, likely won’t even see a video clip. That’s because he is incarcerated in the notorious ADX federal prison, also known as Super Max, in Florence. There, Hoover spends 23 hours a day in a 6-foot by 8-foot concrete cell with very little contact with the outside world.
But Kanye West, who recently changed his name to Ye, and Drake are holding the “Free Larry Hoover Benefit Concert” to raise awareness about Hoover’s incarceration and his family’s ongoing efforts to free him under the 2018 “First Step Act,” a law signed by President Donald Trump that gives federal prisoners convicted of drug crimes an opportunity to have reduced sentences.
Proceeds from the show, which will be streamed on Amazon Prime and in IMAX theaters, will benefit non-profits that work toward prison reform. The show is gaining massive attention because the two artists are setting aside their differences and because it will be Ye’s first headlining show in five years and Drake’s first show since the Astroworld Festival in November in Houston where 10 people died and more than 300 were injured.
Hoover’s wife, Winndye Hoover, and his son, Larry Hoover Jr., said they hope the show raises awareness about his case and puts public pressure on prosecutors and a federal judge to relent the next time they petition the court for relief.
“Is there’s such a thing as a redemption,” Hoover Jr. said. “Can my father please have a second chance?”
West championed Hoover’s cause when he met with Trump at the White House. And when West released his album “Donda” in August, Hoover Jr. was featured on two songs, “Jesus Lord” and “Jesus Lord Pt. 2.”
“After 25 years of bein’ locked down, 23 and 1
My father has not called any shots
From one of the most secure and segregated prisons in the world
And will not, once released
Call any of the shots for the Gangster Disciples,” Larry Hoover Jr. says over West’s beats on “Jesus Lord.”
Hoover Jr. will attend the concert with his mother, but he’s not sure whether he will join Ye on stage to perform “Jesus Lord.”
It’s a great thing they’ve done for our family to help promote and push for the release of Larry Hoover Sr.,” Wenndye Hoover said. “He’s got people who love him just like other people do.
“We couldn’t repay them for what they’re doing. This is monumental.”
A federal jury convicted Hoover in May 1997 on 40 counts related to his gang leadership and found that he ran a criminal enterprise that trafficked illegal drugs, including crack cocaine, between 1970 and 1995. Hoover already was serving a sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections for ordering a murder in 1973, but prosecutors said he ran the Gangster Disciples drug organizations from his prison cell.
And in arguments against Hoover’s request for reprieve under the First Step Act, they said he still tries to appoint leaders of the gang from ADX and they attempt to communicate with him there, according to an order written in July by a judge in U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois.
But Hoover’s legal team and his family say that the 71-year-old who has been locked in ADX for 24 years has no influence over street gang members who are 50 years younger. They also say he has no interest in returning to a criminal life but instead wants to use his experience to influence people for the better.
“He’s a 71 year old man. Why would he live 24 years in 23-and-one and do something that would send him back to that hell hole?” Hoover Jr. said.
Even before Hoover went to prison for life he was changing the streets for the better, Hoover Jr. said. His father registered people to vote and led protests in neighborhoods when the city tried to close schools and medical centers that served impoverished people. He said his father also wrote “The Blueprint,” a book to encourage Gangster Disciples to become a positive force in their communities.
In his order, U.S. District Judge Larry Leinenweber wrote that Hoover qualifies for a reduced sentence under the law but the judge would use his discretion to deny the request. Leinenweber also left the door open for Hoover to try again. If Hoover wins freedom from ADX, he would be transferred to the custody of the Illinois Department of Corrections because of his state murder conviction. The family then would appeal to the Illinois governor for his release.
“Let’s follow the law and let him go before he dies in there or he loses his mind,” Hoover Jr. said of his father’s incarceration at ADX.
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