J. Cole & Drake 2023 Dreamville Festival Recap – Billboard
Written by GRB on 03/04/2023
For the first weekend in April, the Dreamville collective turned Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh into what felt like the biggest family cookout of the year, with over 100,000 fans being treated to various performances across the Rise and Shine stages. Jessie Reyez, Sean Paul, City Girls, Ari Lennox, Waka Flocka Flame, Burna Boy, Summer Walker (who announced her upcoming project CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP) and Usher tore down the house over the two-day event — but there was no questioning who people were really there to see.
J. Cole kicked off the main event at the Shine stage with an explosive rendition of the North Carolina anthem “Who Dat,” off his debut album 2011 Cole World: The Sideline Story, before going into a medley of hits from his decorated catalog. Fans erupted at each record that rang throughout the festival grounds, such as “9 5 . s o u t h,” “m y . l i f e,” “G.O.M.D.,” “Fire Squad,” “Power Trip,” “The London” and more.
Midway into his set, Cole called upon his Dreamville army, inviting JID, Lute, Cozz, Omen and Earthgang to join him on stage for electrifying renditions of “Under the Sun,” “Down Bad” and “Stick.” At one point, Cole even dipped into his nostalgic bag and saluted his Friday Night Lights era with a performance of “Villematic.”
Just when fans were getting situated with Cole’s amazing set, Drizzy Drake took the reins and brought the night to another level. The 6 God arrived with his fiery verse on Travis Scott’s “SICKO MODE” before putting on his Nike sports gloves and running through his own medley of classic hits, such as “Over,” “Energy,” “Nonstop” and “Marvin’s Room.”
Fans tried to get a grip on Drizzy’s thrilling set, but the Toronto megastar brought out a heap of guests to keep the crowd guessing and continue the party well into the night. GloRilla got a chance to take the stage after missing her performance earlier in the day with a quick rendition of her hit single “F.N.F (Let’s Go)” and Lil Uzi Vert made time to hit the crowd with a two-song set of signature smashes “XO TOUR Llif3” and “Just Wanna Rock.”
The biggest special guest, though, was Lil Wayne, who shocked the crowd with his arrival during Drake’s run-through of their 2012 collaborative hit “The Motto.” Weezy F. Baby then took over to perform “Uproar” featuring Swizz Beatz and “A Milli,” which had the North Carolina faithful passionately recite every word.
Towards the tail end of the show, Drake promised he had one more surprise up his sleeve — which had fans pondering what else he could do to put a fitting cap on an already-amazing night. That question was answered by 21 Savage popping up on stage to help Drake perform “Knife Talk” and “Rich Flex.”
Before Drake gave Cole the stage back, he took a second to give his “brother” his flowers, as he asked the 100,000-plus guests to sing their hearts out to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Cole was taken aback by the moving gesture, as he looked on at the massive sea of people hitting their high notes in unison as a sign of appreciation for everything he’s done for them in his 16-year career.
The incredible night finally saw its end once J. Cole grabbed the mic to praise Drake, with the two of them embracing and sharing a hug. Cole then eventually loosened the grip he had on the night and sent fans home with a fireworks-filled rendition of his 2014 Forest Hills Drive standout, “No Role Modelz.”
Once the show was over, there was not one upset face in the crowd, as people were smiling from ear to ear — with many even calling Dreamville Festival one of “the best events of the year.”