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Dreamville Festival J. Cole
Dreamville Festival J. Cole
Photo Credit: Joshua Galloway

J. Cole's Inaugural Dreamville Festival was One Long Dedication Towards Nipsey Hussle [Photo Essay]

Even with the death of Nipsey Hussle still lingering, J. Cole, SZA, Teyana Taylor, J.I.D, and more made sure the inaugural Dreamville Fest was memorable.

It was home. I don’t think there’s a better way to explain the inaugural Dreamville Festival.

You ever dream of something and found it tangible but a process? A goal to create something bigger than you? Well, if you ever wanted confirmation that dreams do come true, J. Cole provided the blueprint: dedication, hard work, and patience will be the sum of all your sacrifice.

After being uprooted from its original date in September, due to unforeseen weather and unfortunate circumstances, Dreamville moved the inaugural festival to April, where, in Raleigh, North Carolina, could it mean winter, spring, summer, and fall within one hour. But, luckily, the rap gods looked out and kept us at a steady 65 degrees.

At 40k people, no one knew what to really expect at Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh — we never had anything of this magnitude down here. J. Cole and his team have been talking about this moment for years, working with locals to make sure the dream came to life. The festival featured acts such as Big Sean, Teyana Taylor, 21 Savage, SZA, and Nelly. The festival was also a showcase for the Dreamville label, highlighting J.I.D, Ari Lennox, King Mex, Omen, Bas, Cozz, Lute and, of course, the head honcho himself, J. Cole.

While every festival is meant to be a great time, there was a common theme throughout each artist's performance: the acknowledgment of the untimely passing of Nipsey Hussle. You didn’t have to know him to feel the loss of his life and, throughout the festival, Nipsey’s spirit was alive and thriving. Every single artist made sure to not only pay their respects to his life and legacy. One of the defining moments was during Big Sean’s performance. He asked the crowd to put both hands in the air and give energy to Nipsey’s family.

Dorothea Dix park fell silent.

Is there an initiation process for joining Teyana Taylor’s fan club? Besides abs? Dawned in a beige Supreme outfit, Teyana shined for Dreamville, proving she’s an incredible force in music. Belting out songs such as “Hurry,” “No Manners” and a rendition of “Gonna Love Me” dedicated to Nipsey and girlfriend Lauren London.

Hailing fromWashington, D.C. the first lady of Dreamville, Ari Lennox, connected with the audience through personal life experiences and sultry sounds. She sung fan favorites such as “Backseat,” “Whipped Cream” and, of course, her new hit single “Shea Butter Baby.”

Then there was J.I.D. If you never seen the Atlanta native in person, you’re not living life. With an undeniable stage presence, J.I.D rapped “Westbrook,” “Working Out,” and “Off Deez.” He even hit us with an acapella rap that highlighted his breath control which resulted in fan chants.

The main attraction was rocking Puma sweats and a Dreamville jersey, wearing the state of North Carolina on his back. J. Cole lead off the show in perfect fashion with his new hit single, “Middle Child." Cole took time to soak in his dream in reality by asking stage managers to shine the lights on the 40,000 people that sold out Dreamville. For a minute, he just looked in amazement. He held nothing back giving fans the ride and progression of his career doing songs such as “Grown Simba,” “Back to the Topic," “Kevin’s Heart,”ATM” and “Can’t Get Enough.” Cole also brought out 21 Savage for “A Lot” and Meek Mill as a surprise guest for “Dreams and Nightmares.”

But his shining moment came with “Love Yourz,” which was dedicated toward Nipsey Hussle. Cole directed everyone to put their phones in the air and to not put them down until the song is over. He wanted to remind fans that the fact they were breathing was bigger than any problem they currently had — not everyone has that blessing. Photos and video of Nipsey played in the background, while Cole sat in a chair an intimately rapped “There’s no such thing as a life better than yours.”

This festival was different. The vibe. The love. It was all there. There was a peace in knowing that Cole carved out a piece of hip-hop for North Carolina. He didn’t forget home.


Quierra Luck is a sports writer based in North Carolina. You can follow her @Quierra_Luck