Raleigh’s Dreamville Festival, conceptualized by North Carolina and Dreamville’s own, J. Cole, returned to the scenic Dorothea Dix Park this past weekend, unfolding two days of live music that was both a celebration of music and a testament to the cultural impact of hip-hop. With the festival drawing in massive crowds from across the state and country, its contribution to North Carolina’s economy was palpable, echoing the effect of over 1,300 full-time jobs with its $145 million impact thanks to the sold out festival. 


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Saturday set the stage with an eclectic mix of artists, starting with the dynamic rising star Sexyy Red, whose afternoon performance was a vibrant kickoff to the festival. The energy continued to build with names like R&B veteran, Jeremih, and the always energetic and entertaining, Lil Yachty, who set the tone with their melodic hooks and charismatic performances. Schoolboy Q and J.I.D then took the reins later in the evening, delivering hard-hitting verses that resonated with the hip-hop purists in the crowd. 

The evening reached a high with 50 Cent, who, stepping in for Chris Brown, proved why he remains a titan in the industry. His set was a relentless journey through his catalog of hits, captivating the audience with his gritty narratives, infectious beats and a surprise appears by North Carolina’s own, DaBaby. Having just wrapped up his farewell tour months ago, his substitute performance was a treat, especially since it could be one of his final performances. 

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Changing the mood, R&B superstar SZA followed, crafting a different kind of magic with her ethereal vocals and introspective lyrics. Her performance was a soothing counterbalance to the high-energy acts of the night, leaving the audience spellbound and putting the cherry on top of an already epic Day 1 of the festival. 

Sunday’s performances were equally compelling, with each artist bringing their unique flair to the festival. Rae Sremmurd, Jeezy, and Key Glock energized the crowd with their high energy sets, setting the stage for one of the most anticipated performances of the night by Nicki Minaj. Albeit an hour late, the queen of rap made up for the lengthy delay by dominating the stage with her unparalleled flow, charisma, and a repertoire of tracks that had the crowd hanging on every word. Her performance was not just a display of her musical prowess but a reminder of her indelible influence on the genre. 

As expected, the climax of the festival was J. Cole’s headlining set on Sunday night, an event that was much more than a musical performance; it was a cultural moment that Cole delivers annually for the festival crowd. Fresh off the release of his latest surprise album “Might Delete 

Later,” which had already become a streaming sensation, Cole’s set was charged with anticipation, kicking things off with the live debut of “Crocodile Tearz” in front of a backdrop setting of Fayetteville, Cole’s hometown which sits just an hour south of the Dreamville festival grounds. His performance included some selects from the new album, but of course was full of his classics like “No Role Modelz”, “Power Trip”, “Middle Child” and many more. Cole’s set as a whole, was not just a collection of performances but statements, underscoring his place in the ongoing narrative of hip-hop and its evolving landscape.

But what would a headlining Dreamville performance be without some surprise guests? Cole had collaborators from all over the globe join him for his performance, including Jeremih, Lil Yatchy, Central Cee, Benny The Butcher, Lil Durk and more. The guests not only performed their tracks with Cole, but also some of their biggest hits as an added bonus for the crowd. 

One highlight came as Cole addressed the crowd about the release of his newest project, specifically in its track “7 Minute Drill”. With everyone wondering what shots J. Cole would return to Kendrick Lamar, Cole instead apologized to K. Dot. “I’m so proud of (“Might Delete Later”), except for one part,” said J. Cole. “It’s one part of that shit that makes me feel like, man that’s the lamest shit I did in my fuckin’ life, right?” Cole went on to express his love for Lamar and called his jab on “7 Minute Drill” corny. While the internet was loving the rap beef between the two hip-hop heavyweights, it’s good to see there is no love lost from Cole to Kendrick, making his headlining performance one that Dreamville fans won’t forget. 

Dreamville Festival’s success was not solely due to the impressive lineup but also the seamless experience it offered. With two stages and a schedule designed to minimize conflicts, attendees were able to fully immerse themselves in the music. The festival also catered to the palate with a wide selection of foods and engaged the visual senses with installations from local artists, enriching the overall experience and a staple for a music festival to survive year after year in such an oversaturated space. 

This year’s festival was a convergence of past, present, and future, a place where legends stood shoulder to shoulder with emerging stars, and where music was the universal language. As the festival grounds return to calm, the echoes of Dreamville resonate, leaving an imprint on fans who are already counting down the days until the festival returns for another early kickoff to the summer. 

Check out our favorite images from Dreamville 2024 below.