Last Thursday night was Ye (Kanye West) and Drake’s Free Larry Hoover benefit concert that was livestreamed on Amazon Music. Not gonna lie, I’m still surprised this event happened given Drake and Kanye’s ongoing drama in recent years, but here we are!
Shoutout to J. Prince. The Rap-A-Lot Records founder is the reason this event happened. In 2018, he stopped Drake from retaliating to Pusha T’s diss track. And after Kanye’s infamous Drink Champs interview, J Prince got Ye to publicly ask Drake to do this benefit concert with him.
J. Prince spoke to both sides and squashed this feud. The Houston legend has strong communication and negotiation skills that can benefit more than hip-hop drama. The United Nations needs J. Prince on retainer! Let him help negotiate some geopolitical conflict.
From Apple to Amazon. This summer, Ye’s Donda listening sessions broke Apple Music livestream records with 5.4 million viewers. He had a Beats by Dre commercial to promote the album. Apple and Ye seemed all good. So why would Ye jump from one FAANG company to another?
A few potential reasons:
– Bidding war: Amazon may have been willing to pay more than Apple, which is not surprising. In 2021, the company stepped up its Amazon Prime Day concerts, made deeper integrations with Twitch, and made hip-hop a bigger priority. If Kanye can bring 5M+ viewers to watch an event on short notice, plus Drake’s reach, it makes sense to pay up.
– Is Ye frustrated with Apple? The rumor mill has been swirling. Some believe that Kanye was frustrated with how Apple released Donda. Remember when Ye said that Universal Music Group released the album without his permission? The album was temporarily taken off Apple Music thereafter. This reason has less merit, but it’s thought-provoking given Ye’s contentious past with his mega-corporation business partners.
-Maximize reach. In my 2019 essay, Beyonce’s Streaming Strategy, Explained, I broke down why Bey released her Coachella documentary, Homecoming on Netflix instead of Tidal, the streaming service she co-owned, or HBO, the home to her past visual projects. In April, former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said that 175 million of Prime’s 200 million subscribers have streamed content in the past year. The concert was available on both Prime Video, Twitch, Prime Music, and the Amazon website. Amazon said there was no missing this:
Meanwhile, Apple Music last publicly reported subscriber count was 60 million in June 2019. But analysts predict it now has around 80 million subscribers. Even if we add Apple TV+’s 20 million subscribers, it still pales in comparison to the reach of Amazon.
Livestream events like these are top of funnel for the biggest artists in the world. It’s in the artists’ interest to maximize reach and get paid by the biggest distributors to do so. Amazon’s show may pave the way for other future shows.
Ye and Kanye were in different modes. Ye played all his old hits and won his fans back in the process. It was the right move. 2021 has been a low-key redemption tour for the Chicago artist. Ye lost a lot of fans after the MAGA hat, “slavery was a choice,” and other controversial comments. Many of them may never come back, but a lot of them have, especially after the listening sessions. He went into his deep catalog and played the songs that fans loved.
Meanwhile, Drake did mostly songs from Certified Lover Boy. Drake could have turned it into a glorified Verzuz battle, but he stuck to the new stuff.
Drake’s profile has been toned-down since CLB. There were no big interviews to promote the album, and he recently withdrew his Grammy nominations. Some of it may be related to the Astroworld lawsuits, but maybe he’s saving up for his upcoming tour.
Hear me about… Certified Donda Tour? Now that the two have patched things up to at least be civil, why not run it back for a worldwide tour? They had the two biggest hip-hop albums of 2021. Neither has done a stadium tour. The collective draw could guarantee packed stadiums in even the smallest markets.
The economics work out too. They could gross $6 – 8 million from ticket sales alone per show. It would take 4-5 arena shows to hit that revenue mark. And since every artist wants to tour in the next 24 months post-pandemic, combining forces is not a bad idea. Plus, there’s a good amount of overlap in both fanbases.
Drake has done tours with other artists like Future and Migos, so he’s used to this. It’s a lot to ask, but maybe J Prince can help close the deal!
Read more about the Kanye and Drake show in Paul A. Thompson’s article for Pitchfork.