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Column: A look at the 2023 Dreamville Festival lineup

Drake speaks onstage during Drake's Till Death Do Us Part rap battle on Oct. 30, 2021, in Long Beach, California. Photo Courtesy of Amy Sussman/Getty Images/TNS.

Hip-hop artist J. Cole and his record label are headed back to Dorothea Dix Park in Raleigh this weekend for the third annual Dreamville Festival. As a huge fan of the Dreamville artists, and based on my attendance at the 2022 festival, here are my rankings of the artists I am most excited to see this weekend.

10. Earthgang

Earthgang is an electric duo that experiments with a variety of sounds to produce captivating projects. While the group has been gaining more popularity in recent years from their individual projects, like "Ghetto Gods," I have always been a bigger fan of their contributions to the collaborative Dreamville projects. I am most excited to hear “Down Bad,” “Wells Fargo,” and “Sacrifices.”  

9. Bas

As one of J. Cole’s childhood friends, it has always seemed like Bas was born to be a part of Dreamville. Bas will bring his international inspiration from his travels into his music, which usually sounds like the perfect soundtrack for an island vacation. 

8. Ari Lennox

The festival will also feature some of the biggest female hip-hop and R&B artists like Ari Lennox, City Girls, Summer Walker and Glorilla. Lennox’s second album "age/sex/location" is the newest addition to her discography and even includes a track with Summer Walker. 

I watched Ari Lennox perform last year and I felt like I was melting in her rich voice and warm performance style. These icons of R&B and hip-hop will be taking over with their spectacular stage presence and lyrics, all of which will work to amplify female voices in the genre.

7. Burna Boy

The Afrobeat tunes of Burna Boy and the dancehall style of Sean Paul will be a refreshing addition to traditional hip-hop sound. Although I have just recently been introduced to the genre of Afrobeats, a rapidly growing style of music that blends West African music with Black American influences, I'm still looking forward to hearing it on full display this weekend. 

Artists like these are bringing part of the global music scene into our own backyard, and I am intrigued to see the liveliness of the crowd and how hip-hop fans that may not have been exposed to the genre before respond to their performances. 

6. J.I.D

I am stoked to hear J.I.D perform for the third time, after seeing him last year and in February on Smino’s Luv is 4Ever tour as an opener. 

J.I.D's most recent album, "The Forever Story," features new tracks with his infectious energy and insanely detailed storytelling, like on "Crack Sandwich" and "2007" — a song that recalls J.I.D’s come-up from the bottom to being signed on Dreamville Records. 

The only reason I have placed him this low on the list is because listeners will have to choose between seeing J.I.D or securing a good spot for Drake and J. Cole due to the close performance times. 

5. Key Glock

It can’t be a hip-hop festival without some trap artists like Key Glock, Waka Flocka Flame and Lil Durk. Key Glock’s high-energy tracks like “Russian Cream” and “Ambition For Cash” are sure to get the crowd hyped for the rest of the festival. 

Key Glock is an artist my friends and I love to listen to while working out and partying together, so it would be so fun to hear those songs in a huge crowd. While I enjoy lyrical hip-hop, something about dancing to trap music makes me feel like I'm on top of the world.  

4. Summer Walker

Summer Walker earns a spot on my list for her luscious voice and catchy, melodic tracks. "Over It" and "Last Day of Summer" are two of my favorite projects by Walker, and I'm grateful that I will be hearing her beautiful songs live and in person. I think Walker is a very talented singer and songwriter and deserves the recognition she has been getting in recent years.

3. Usher

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The R&B scene will be led by 2000s kings Usher and Mario, along with upcoming alternative R&B artist, SiR. 

But Usher is a headliner for a reason. 

He's sure to make the crowd feel nostalgic with his well-known throwback songs like “Yeah!” and “DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love." I will need a break from the high-energy hip-hop artists to catch my breath and sway with the music.

Usher is not an artist that I would expect to see on the lineup or even an artist I would usually buy concert tickets to see. But once I remembered the sheer number of his hits he's put out over his long career, Usher moved up on my list. 

2. J. Cole

Since he is the reason why Dreamville exists today, J. Cole is, without a doubt, one of the artists I am most excited to see. 

Watching his performance last year fulfilled one of my childhood dreams and left me without a voice the next day. His set will probably feature music from his mixtapes and his award-winning "2014 Forest Hills Drive" (my personal favorite album). Hits from his most recent studio album, "The Off-Season," are also likely to make an appearance. 

Cole has the ability to create a sense of community and love for everyone in his music, and the passion in his performances can be seen from miles away. Seeing him live is a must, especially this weekend.

1. Drake

When the lineup for the 2023 festival came out and featured one of the biggest artists in the world, I was ecstatic — even more so since there are no North Carolina stops on his upcoming ‘It’s All a Blur’ tour with 21 Savage. 

After nearly five years since Drake’s last tour, I am beyond excited to hear his classic chart-toppers "Take Care" and "If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late," along with his newer projects on the big stage. Although Drake gets some hate for being too mainstream and continuously changing his style with each project, I truly think he is one of the most enjoyable artists to listen to in our generation. I cannot wait for his charisma to light up the stage on Sunday night.

Dreamville Records was created to foster community and highlight talented Black musicians in a shared creative space. Bringing an event like this to the Triangle is J. Cole’s way of celebrating his North Carolina roots and giving his local fans a chance to enjoy his music.