By Jaz’man Hampton, Contributor, Regional Music Journal
“We’ve never had anything like this in Raleigh,” said 19-year-old Terra Crosby. “I lived in Raleigh my whole life and this is the first festival I ever went to.”
Despite that, J.Cole announced during his performance, how he seeks to change that reality by making Dreamville Festival an annual occasion in the city of Raleigh.
The original date of the festival was recorded for September of 2018, though during the scheduled weekend, Hurricane Florence hit the city postponing the festival until spring. The star-studded lineup was modified from the original cast, with the addition of 21 Savage and 6lack, and the removal of Rich the Kid and Young Thug.
Due to rain the day before the Festival, the ground at Dorothea Dix Parkwasn’t easy for getting around, although this didn’t stop showgoers from bringing out blankets and chairs to have a place to sit during the 11-hour festival.
The festival setting resembled an amusement park with the massive audience, extremely long food truck and beverage lines, and colorful attractions of various artworks. A large tent full of merchandise anchored as the center of the festival, directly between the two show stages Rise stage and Shine stage.
J.Cole, with the help of Tidal, screamed the live event for Tidal members providing them a way to catch the festival from home. During set changes, the live stream would play podcast and various interviews with Dreamville members and famous attendees of the festival. At the actual event, no music was played between sets.
“They could play music on the aux cord or something for all this money we out here spending,” said Devin Wade while waiting in a Filipino food truck line to order.
At next year’s festival, Dreamville can benefit from adding a live DJ during set changes.
Dreamville label mattes and North Carolina MC’s hosted the festival from beginning to end.
Mez, a Southeast Raleigh native, hit the stage first. As a hometown guy, it’s visible he’s an up and coming artist by the lack of attention the audience invested.
Lute and Omen were the first of Dreamville’s family to hit the stage. They each relaxed the audience with their soulful vibes. As two men who possess less than four projects collectively, the two are skilled at performing.
Chicago’s West side helped to keep the festival going with Saba, a talented artist who embraces his different style and uniqueness. Saba’s performance is normal for a lyrical artist, starting with the popular songs and ending with the more heartfelt melodies. Chicago’s drill music rebirth is hot right now, but the art of music for Saba is far from the current trend.
In his album CARE FOR ME released in 2018, Saba speaks openly about the life and death of his cousin, John Walt. In an interview with, Rap Radar, Saba spoke a lot about the passing of his cousin and how the music changed after his passing.
Dreamville duo, EarthGang, entered the festivals foyer. The 2017 signee’s blend well with Dreamville, their art, style, and colorful fashion work together to produce a new brand of the artist for the label. The rap is lyrical and the beats are soul-funk.
Cozz kept the Dreamville momentum going. The live version of Cody Mac isn’t attractive, musically. The intro and his first two mixes will be about all you hear from the lyrical rap artist. Once he starts to lose his voice, the performance becomes more annoying, than entertaining.
Bas and J.I.D are the only two Dreamville artists currently on tour, which is evident in the way they performed during the festival. Bas completely recreated his ‘Milky Way Tour’ set and J.I.D’s was similar to footage from the first leg of his ‘Catch me if you can’ tour, however, he brought out his label mattes Earthgang to perform alongside him on two tracks.
The festival didn’t provide an intermission. Attendees were able to watch sets from the food truck, beverage and merchandise lines. Though, it was hard to hear the music if you weren’t close to either stage, standing directly in the center of both stages isn’t a good idea if you want to be entertained.
“I don’t listen to these artists much,” said Atlanta native Keyvon Wallace. “I’m here to see Teyana [Taylor] and Cole. Hearing the music would be nice, I mean, if I can see the performance then I should hear the music, but I don’t really care.”
North Carolina’s own, Rapsody, came to lend a helping hand in making their city a new music fest destination. The fly rapper is working on her 10th year in the game, like J.Cole, whom she worked with for the first time on their 2018 hit, Sojourner.
Nigerian singer, songwriter, and record producer Davido switched up the pace of the festival, taking the musical aura to an Afro-pop genre. In 2018, Davido became the first African-based artist to have received an award on the BET Awards main stage. As a performer, Davido is able to move the crowd making those in attendance feel like their apart of his culture.
Ari Lennox, Dreamville’s sole female act charmed the audience. Midway through her performance, a young man passed out, and Ari asked the audience to “help that sweet motherf**er”.
As ever first-time event does, the festival hit a hiccup when they began experiencing technical issues before 6lack’s set. The festival didn’t allow him a longer set due to the mishap and the next act, Nelly, began his performance on the opposing stage while 6lack was still performing.
Big Sean gave the most heartfelt speech of the night, covering topics from self-motivation to remembering the life of Nipsey Hussle, a fellow musical artist who passed away a few days before the festival. Big Sean performed a countless number of hits. As a ten-year vet, he uttered his understanding of what it meant to, J.Cole, putting on a huge festival in his home state.
T.D.E’s artist, SZA, drew nearer toward the end of the festival. An audience member gave the New Jersey native a book, in which she was grateful. “I don’t think anyone’s ever given me a book before,” SZA said as she graciously thanked the young lady. As a live performer, SZA is fun and playful, her energy keeps the audience connected.
To close out the night, Jermaine Lamarr Cole, played master of ceremonies during his performance. He invited 21 Savage back to the stage as the two carried out their 2018 single, ‘A Lot’, a hot four-quarter track that took the hip-hop industry by storm. J.Cole went on to perform classics like ‘Back to the Topic’ and ‘Grown Simba’.
Meek Mill made an appearance during Cole’s set, coming out to his 2018 hit ‘Going Bad’ featuring Drake. J.Cole stands in support of Meek Mill, after his release from prison nearly a year ago and what’s he does to combat the criminal justice system issue many oppressed people face in America.
Dreamville Festival came to a close at 11 p.m., as J.Cole told the audience to hold one another by the shoulders as he sang ‘Love Yours’ with a film of Nipsey Hussle images running on the screen behind him. The first ever festival in Raleigh was a sold-out success.
© Copyright 2019 Jaz’man Hampton