J. Cole has been a huge rap star for years, but right now, he’s in the process of leveling up. Earlier this year, Cole’s new single “Middle Child” became his biggest hit ever. And this past weekend, Cole finally staged his own music festival. Cole’s Dreamville Festival was supposed to go down last year, but he had to cancel it because of the impending arrival of Hurricane Florence. But on Saturday, Dreamville finally happened in Raleigh’s Dorothea Dix Park. Cole headlined a bill that included 21 Savage, SZA, Big Sean, and Nelly, among many others. And Cole made sure his set counted.
During his set, Cole invited 21 Savage — a recent collaborator who’s lately had a tumultuous story — to the stage. Together, they performed their big collaboration “a lot,” and it was their first time doing it live together. During the performance, Cole shouted Savage out: “How many people in this motherfucker happy to see 21 Savage home and free and doing what the fuck he love to do?” Here’s a video of that performance:
Shortly after that, Cole brought out another rapper who, like Savage, has been through legal troubles and become a flashpoint for national conversation. Meek Mill wasn’t on the festival bill, but Cole brought Meek to the stage, commending Meek for how he “really devoted his life to changing some shit.” Meek performed his recent hits “Uptown Vibes” and “Going Bad,” as well as the immortal monster intro to his Dreams & Nightmares album. Here’s a video of that:
And in between those two guests, Cole performed his 2014 song “Love Yourz” in tribute to the recently slain Nipsey Hussle, rapping the song while images of Nipsey played on the big screen behind him. Before doing the song, he spoke heavily about Nipsey and about what he meant. Here’s that:
Love to see a rapper carrying himself as a hero in his homestate, and love to see him thinking hard about what that means.