J. Cole’s debut Dreamville Festival on Saturday (April 6) abounded hordes of roughly 40,000 fans to Raleigh, North Carolina in ones of its loudest and liveliest experiences of the state’s capital.
Festival-goers descended upon the wide-scaping open field at 12 noon bringing with them the virtues that embodies the spirit of the Dreamville family: fellowship, diversity, humility, and homage. From the art to the artists to the activities, Cole’s inaugural festival on his stomping grounds embraced the healing and unifying powers of visual and sonic art. Thus, the North Carolina getaway was a much-needed dose of musical serotonin in the thick of hip-hop’s desolate and mournful week after the passing of L.A.’s newest angel and endeared rap artist and altruist, Nipsey Hussle.
Before the festival’s major rush, fans crowded around two colossal murals of Nipsey and another beloved hip-hop and soundboard talent, the late Mac Miller. The artwork of the risen hip-hop angels were painted by Paul Garson and Nik Soupé in the vision of Dreamville’s most colorful and signature aesthetics. For Nipsey’s mural, colorful pink clouds float in a yellow sky as a green hills clasp over each other behind the headshot painting.
Nipsey’s spirit floated to the onstage screens of some of his brothers in rap that he left behind as well. The G.O.O.D. Music implants of Dreamville Festival, Teyana Taylor and Big Sean, also devoted a significant portion of their art to the legacy and life of Nipsey Hussle for the occasion. Backdropped by several memorable images of Nipsey, the Harlem songstress slowed down her high-powered set to dedicate a few words to Slauson Avenue soldier and his family. “I wanna dedicate this next song to some close friends of mine,” she said cueing two Keep That Same Energy favorites in remembrance of Nipsey. “I can’t even begin to imagine the pain and the heartache. Lauren, I love you so much. I wanna dedicate this song to you and Nip.”
Hours later, Detroit emcee Big Sean took the stage to honor Nipsey’s legacy in a personalized tribute. Sean was joined by the spirit of Nipsey from right there onstage as he reminded fans of his eternalness. "I wanna talk to Nipsey too because even though I know we just lost him, I also know that the body is a shell and I can still feel his energy,” Sean said. “I can still feel his consciousness. Nipsey, I just wanna say bro, thank you for teaching everybody so much. Thank you for the inspiration." The I Decided. Rapper also dedicated a never-before-heard verse to the late 33-year-old over a somber piano melody. Sean topped the eulogy off with a moment of silence from fans who unitedly accepted stillness for the untimely passing but unparalleled legacy of Nipsey.
Cole echoed a similar approach in his paying of respects to Nipsey The Great. Reaching back into his 2014 Forest Hills Drive masterpiece, the North Carolina rap icon dimmed the turn-up and pegged the album’s ruminative single to send up to the heavens for Nip: “Love Yourz.” An ode to life and gratitude to everyone and everything within it, Cole sat for a moment to explain his reason for the devotion. “I just seen footage yesterday of all type of different sets and hoods walking together through L.A. to go pay homage and pay respect to Nipsey Hussle so I need us to do the same thing tonight in North Carolina,” he said to the crowd as the instrumentals of the track grew upon the audience. “I feel like everybody should put they f**king cell phones or lighters in the sky right now— do not put them b**ches down until the song is over. This song called ‘Love Yourz.’ I don’t give a f**k what kind of problems I got going on with my life or your life. I’m breathing right now, right? You still alive.”
The reverence for Nipsey didn't stop there among Cole's Dreamville tribe as well. Speaking to a handful of the family's gifted acts, Cozz, Lute, Ari Lennox and Omen shared their thoughts on Nipsey's legacy and music's responsibility to honor it in light of his passing.
For one, I’m from the same area he’s from—Crenshaw District. So, I really feel it. I’m around the energy out there and everyone is just mourning his loss. I got the honor of meeting him, talking to him and being able to pick his mind in the studio. I was hurt by [his passing], and I’m still hurt by it. It’s unbelievable. In a weird way, it kind of did good for the world though because I feel like everyone is going to do better and they’re going to hustle in his name. It’s bringing people close. Yesterday, all the L.A. gangs—the rivals, too—they all marched and sh**. That don’t happen. Ever. So, I think people are going about it the right way.
Shout-out to Nipsey, R.I.P. to Nipsey. I went to school with his sister, so prayers up to Sam and his brother and family. – Cozz
We gotta follow in Nipsey’s footsteps. Invest in your community. That’s how I feel like we keep his legacy alive. Right now, in Charlotte, we have a lot of gentrification going on and it’s like, my neighborhood is worth $1.5 million. When, or if, I touch $1.5 million, I’m definitely buying my neighborhood back. I’m definitely going to invest into whatever I can. Buying property, all of that. If you’re a staple in your community, can’t nobody touch your community. The gentrification can’t happen if everyone is vocal. The gentrification only happens when everyone has let go, you know?
Shout-out to his family, shout-out to his kids, to his wife Lauren and his daughter Emani. I’m a father of a little girl myself, and I can only imagine how that is—a woman raising her kids without the man of the household. Especially if that’s the person who is your life partner and you’re supposed to grow old with. So, I can only imagine losing that person. Rest in peace to him and respects to the family. – Lute
I feel like we can help keep his legacy alive by owning more, investing more into our communities and not just investing from afar. We have to really get involved, be hands-on and show up. The cool thing about Nipsey was that he was literally with his friends and family. It was almost like he never left the neighborhood and was constantly trying to help. That was beautiful. As a whole, we need to also talk more about how to end gun violence somehow and really being more vocal about it. We have to discuss either banning guns or making sure evil people do not have any access whatsoever to them. I know that’s hard, but I feel like that’s the answer. Guns are ruining and destroying lives and taking lives.
I send my sincerest condolences to Nipsey and his beautiful family. I know he’s with you and I pray that you guys are healed and covered. I know he’s with y’all and that you feel him every day. I pray for more healing with each day.—Ari
What I took from Nipsey’s career and his legacy in our community is that he led by example.
We hear a lot of people saying things, tweeting things, but he’s somebody who was really doing what he was talking about. And when he was not actively doing it, he was educating us about it. Like, ‘Hey, this is how you do it. This is what y’all need to be thinking about, focused on…’ and it’s like, we need that. I went to college and a lot of things he was talking about, I didn’t know. If a college graduate didn’t even know that information…I think the best thing we can take from him is to just lead by example. When he’s talking about financial literacy, now it’s on us to actually learn about it and spread it among our community as well. Whether it’s building in our community, economic empowerment, all of those things are clearly things we need. I know the youth and people don’t really follow something unless it’s cool. So we gotta make it cool. It’s our job to make what he was talking about—which is the betterment of all of us—make it a cool thing.
Definitely rest in peace to Nipsey, man. Prayers to his wife, his family and thank you to his people that gave him the game and knowledge he was spreading to us. I want to thank his family and the legacy he left. It will carry on hopefully through us and through others in this industry.—Omen
(Photo: Natalie Rich)