Dreamville Festival 2023 Recap: J. Cole & Drake Bring Their Bromance to Raleigh
Dreamville Festival 2023 was packed with artists who rocked their sets, from Usher to J. Cole and Drake.
In three short years, J. Cole and Dreamville have managed to create their own lane when it comes to festivals, cultivating a hometown feeling for visitors who make the trek. The inclusive environment Dreamville captivates is rare; even as there is 100,000 people surrounding you, somehow Cole makes you feel like he’s invited you personally to Dorothea Dix Park.
Dreamville Festival 2023 was packed with talent who rocked their sets. The festival featured a healthy mix of newish acts (such as Sonny Miles, Baby Tate, Marcus Clae, Ayra Starr and Reuben Vincent) mixed with seasoned veterans (like Waka Flocka Flame, Travis Porter, Mario, and Sean Paul.) And then there was the headliners — driven by superstars Usher, Burna Boy, and J. Cole and Drake splitting duties.
Day one: Usher trolls the crowd
Saturday started late, with the weather forcing the city of Raleigh, North Carolina to push the starting time back. The day featured high-octane performances — standouts included City Girls and Lil Durk — but it was Usher, a 30-year musical veteran, who shut the stage down.
He started his wet with the cruelest April Fool’s Joke:
“I have a surprise for you tonight, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “Without further ado. Put your hands together for the one, the only, Beyoncé.”
He quickly made up for the lighthearted prank with a string of classic hits including “Love in this Club”, “Hey Daddy (Daddy’s Home),” and “You Make Me Wanna…” With each song, Usher’s energy only seemed to grow, feeding off the crowd, creating an experience that left me looking up Vegas flights.
Day two: J. Cole and Drake rule Raleigh
With an all-white stage, Summer Walker ushered in Sunday afternoon with R&B intimacy, despite the fact her sound was off. She engaged with the crowd, showcasing her contagious personality, telling the crowd jokingly, “It’s been a long time, NC… a bitch been pregnant.” She continued her set, featuring hit songs like “Girls Need Love” and “Unloyal.”
Before Dreamville’s head honcho graced the stage, the African Giant Burna Boy brought a piece of Nigeria to North Carolina. Performing global hits like “Last, Last,” “On the Low” and “It’s Plenty,” Burna’s commanding presence left an electric atmosphere that had the audience on a high.
Despite being billed together, it was J. Cole who first appeared. He opened his set with music for day ones, screaming “Dreamville” as the beat dropped for “Who Dat.” A highlight came when he stopped the music, looked out over the sea of faces and a smile spread across his face. It was clear that the overwhelming support humbled him. Asking for the lights to drop, he took a moment to soak it all in. Cole continued his set with “Villematic”(asking Kanye West to clear the sample); Jeremih’s “Planez;” and “A Tale of 2 Citiez.”After Cole ended with his signature song, “Love Yourz,” he said, “It’s about that time.” And “SICKO MODE” hit the speakers.
Drake, who was decked out in Cole’s Terry Sanford high school jersey from Fayetteville, NC, performed “Started From the Bottom,” “Energy,” and “Marvins Room.” Knowing he was in his bag, Drake asked the crowd, “Do you want more?” “HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)”started playing and out popped Young Money founder, Lil Wayne. But Drake didn’t stop there: GloRilla, Lil Uzi Vert, and 21 Savage made an appearance on stage. Drake closed his set with an ode to Cole, with Whitney Houston’s “I will Always Love You” playing.
Dreamville Festival continues to raise the bar. The question now is Cole can top this year?