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2019: Year Of The Dreamers

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on an infographic project about one of my favorite musical groups, Dreamville Records. After finishing it, I wanted to take some time and talk about why I chose to work on this subject and why it’s important to me.

First thing’s first – what is Dreamville?

Dreamville Records is a label founded by North Carolina rapper J. Cole and his manager, Ibrahim “Ib” Hamad. The label was created back in 2007 when Cole was working on his mixtape “The Come Up”.

Since then, the label has only moved forward. In its first seven years, Dreamville slowly built itself up, signing 3 artists and releasing four albums. After that, things started taking off for the label as they signed another four artists over the course of two years, and went from releasing only four albums over seven years to releasing four albums in one year in 2018.

All of this time spent building up the label and the artists led to the best year yet for the label in 2019. Coming off the heels of a busy 2018 in which J. Cole’s platinum-certified K.O.D. was released and J.I.D’s second album Dicaprio II caught the attention of rap enthusiasts worldwide, Dreamville set out to do even more.

As genres, rap and hip hop are rooted in collaboration – in no other genre is there such an abundance of artists consistently featuring on each others’ songs and albums, group projects, and a general sense of community amongst artists. And what better way to celebrate this spirit of collaboration than a massive album featuring dozens of artists from all over the country?

On January 6, the legendary Revenge of the Dreamers III recording sessions began with dozens upon dozens of artists all collaborating in the same studio complex, resulting in an unprecedented moment of communal creation. Getting all eight Dreamville artists on one album is impressive, but throwing in another 26 artists and 27 producers? Incredible. And that’s not even including all of the artists whose work didn’t make the final cut on the album.

The music on the album is great, but what I truly love about Revenge of the Dreamers III is that it was the ultimate observance of the communal spirit of rap music. It’s a landmark moment that will no doubt inspire other record labels and groups to try and achieve similar goals – Travis Scott already made his attempt at this with JACKBOYS, although the album was unfortunately cut from a 21-song tracklist with dozens of artists to a much smaller, much less expansive 7-song length with only a fraction of the artists originally promised.

Beyond that, Dreamville hosted its own record-breaking music festival for the first time in 2019. On April 6, the annual Dreamville Festival attracted over 39,000 fans from all over the country and twelve other countries outside of the U.S. As someone who was there in person, it was an incredible sight. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a music festival that big – although it definitely resulted in some long lines for food trucks, water refilling stations, and bathrooms. Still, the energy was electric and everyone floated freely around Dorothea Dix Park, basking in the sun and loving the music.

Outside of these two monumental accomplishments, Dreamville’s 2019 was rounded out by the release of Ari Lennox’s debut studio album, Shea Butter Baby and Earthgang’s long-awaited Dreamville studio album debut, Mirrorland, which ended up being my favorite album of the year.

Simply put, Dreamville had a huge year in 2019. Starting your own music festival, releasing a massive collaboration album, and getting dozens of young artists their first ever RIAA certifications and Grammy nominations are all accomplishments worth celebrating. It’s incredible to see such a passion for music and such incredible achievement from a record label based in my home state.

It’ll be interesting to see how Dreamville manages to top 2019 if that’s even possible. But with J. Cole’s next album The Fall Off slated for a 2020 release I guess we’ll find out soon.