Photograph Credit score: Joseph Baura
As raindrops fell throughout the automotive’s windshield with mild, unnerving grace, Benny The Butcher rapped, “Pay attention, dawg, we actually got here from grave circumstances.”
My six-hour drive from Atlanta, Georgia to Raleigh, North Carolina for the primary Dreamville Pageant wasn’t disrupted by the calm drizzle, however every drop pattering upon my mechanical mammoth served as a reminder of final September’s Hurricane Florence. Nature, in one in every of its most devastating kinds, introduced destruction and injury, took lives, and disturbed livelihoods all through affected North Carolina cities. Beneath totally different circumstances, my journey to Raleigh would’ve been made seven months in the past, however Florence induced the inaugural Dreamville Fest to be canceled and rescheduled.
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How did occasion organizers resolve on the primary Saturday of April? Why this weekend of all weekends? These ideas crossed my thoughts as I stood within the parking zone of Capital Seafood, proper exterior the pageant grounds and shut sufficient to listen to Saba’s voice confess a love for damaged ladies. The overcast sky hovering above was the proper accompaniment for CARE FOR ME, Saba’s excellent 2018 sophomore album. I wasn’t positive if the clouds have been an indication of rain to come back or in the event that they arrived to look at a kindred spirit carry out.
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Whereas strolling towards the pageant entrance to select up my press credentials, I noticed somebody carrying the late Nipsey Hussle’s Crenshaw merchandise. In a sea of Dreamville hoodies, shirts, and crewnecks, I discovered Waldo. The loitering clouds felt like a metaphor for the lingering somberness that has persevered since his passing. I don’t know anybody who works within the music trade or who’s a real fan of hip-hop who didn’t really feel impacted by the startling information of his tragic homicide. Loss of life is one other storm nature brings which should be endured, however Nipsey’s dying, specifically, has been a tough loss to abdomen.
Photograph Credit score: Joseph Baura
As my footwear crusted with mud from yesterday’s rain, rays of sunshine started beaming by way of the grey. A pleasing heat overlaid the park, matching every dimple-displaying smile in my neighborhood. Simply getting into the pageant grounds—earlier than I might even attain one of many two levels—pleasure was omnipresent. As Saba would say, “Heaven throughout me.”
Nearly on cue, Atlanta duo EarthGang started their last tune, the Younger Thug-featuring “Happy with You.” The celebratory single from their forthcoming album Mirrorland hit in a different way in a setting the place 1000’s of individuals sang in unison, “Arduous occasions you make it look straightforward.” It was then that I knew, Dreamville Fest wouldn’t have any rain—it was the rainbow.
Forty thousand individuals arrived for the pageant, sufficient for J. Cole to show Dreamville right into a small nation. Jason “Jah” Lee, an affiliate editor at Bossip, informed me the pageant felt like a church retreat for individuals who believed in what Cole and Dreamville stood for. All of them got here to listen to the great phrase and to unfold the gospel.
Photograph Credit score: Joseph Baura
Each hour extra our bodies arrived; each shade, each ethnicity, all ages. The gang made for an unbelievable ambiance, but additionally among the longest strains I’ve ever seen. With the persistence of Buddhist monks, festivalgoers waited hours for meals, drinks, unique merch, and the possibility to take their image in entrance of gorgeous Nipsey Hussle and Mac Miller murals. Whereas in line for Adobo Joe, an area Filipino meals truck, I heard Ari Lennox’s voice soar from midway throughout the sphere. Top-of-the-line compliments you may pay a singer is to match their reside efficiency to a studio recording, and the First Woman of Dreamville earned such reward. As did J.I.D., the Atlanta-born wordsmith whose breathless rapping appeared much more superhuman when carried out reside. It was an athletic feat; the breath management of an Olympian.
Taking your eyes off Teyana Taylor wasn’t humanly doable as soon as she graced the stage; Bas’ infectious set was like a Pink Bull, giving the gang wings; Rapsody’s stage presence and her band ought to be a blueprint for all artists; seeing SZA return to the stage with energized pleasure and confidence was a deal with as candy as any sweet; every performer left the viewers with one thing value remembering. Although 6LACK handled technical difficulties throughout his efficiency, his frustration didn’t cease him from delivering a particular second in time. “Nipsey impressed us to chase our goal,” he informed the staring crowd. I felt a chill.
Photograph Credit score: Terence Daniels
Nipsey Hussle’s identify rolled off virtually each tongue all through the pageant, whereas his face was projected on stage throughout quite a few performances. Huge Sean calling for a second of silence in Nipsey’s honor and the tribute verse that adopted have been touching. Dreamville Fest marked one in every of Sean’s first performances since his canceled 2018 tour, and the quantity of coronary heart he dropped at the stage was commendable. Seeing 21 Savage, performing for the primary time since his harrowing fiasco with ICE, was additionally a pleasure. 21 might have missed his probability to carry out “loads” with Cole throughout All-Star Weekend, however doing so in entrance of 40,000 followers at Dreamville Fest needed to be much more rewarding.
Regardless of the entire adversity our favourite artists face each day, the stage will endlessly be their sanctuary. It’s the place cash is made, positive, nevertheless it’s at all times there awaiting your return. The place there’s a stage, there’s somebody prepared to look at, recite, and help. It’s the one place the place the artist-fan transaction is the purest. For all we give, nice performers give again much more power and admiration—solely reside are you able to behold this equal trade of affection.
Photograph Credit score: Dante Nicholas
J. Cole is aware of love. It was in his eyes as he seemed out to the ocean of women and men ready with bated breath for him to start his headlining efficiency. It was in his physique language as he carried out a tune launched 10 years in the past and never discovered on any album, however that did not cease the gang from reciting each phrase of “Grown Simba.” Love was within the phrases Cole spoke earlier than bringing out particular visitor Meek Mill, a gesture that embodied the act of giving out flowers to those that are nonetheless in a position to obtain them. Love was within the slideshow Nipsey Hussle footage that performed as Cole carried out “Love Yourz.” Love is a treatment for ache, and everybody left Dreamville Pageant a bit extra healed than once they arrived.
The pageant being rescheduled was a tragedy that man couldn’t keep away from. Hurricane Florence determined to come back, and there was nothing humanly doable to alter her course. Transferring the date to Saturday, April 6, 2019, nonetheless, turned out to be a blessing. Not solely did the pageant develop into an escape, nevertheless it was the manifestation of greater than 10 years of willpower, perseverance, hustle, and motivation. Dreamville Pageant was every little thing J. Cole and his staff has labored towards, and most of the issues Nipsey Hussle stood for. We sang and dance, we beloved and healed; a group of 40,000 dreamers noticed goals come true.