Dreamville Preview: Three NC Artists to See in 2024, and Three to Hope for in 2025

Plus, a roundup of Dreamville-adjacent Friday events to fill out the weekend in Raleigh.

Dreamville Preview: Three NC Artists to See in 2024, and Three to Hope for in 2025
Image provided by Dreamville Festival

When an international superstar like J. Cole makes the decision to bring a multi-day festival to a humble, mid-sized city like Raleigh, North Carolina (America's 41st-largest city, for those wondering), the excitement and sense of promise for locals mostly stems from two different ends of the totem pole. On the upper end, and generally more celebrated, is the presumption of some of the genre's biggest acts touching down annually into a city they might otherwise skip over on the tour circuit between D.C. and Charlotte or Atlanta. But arguably just as important is what it creates on the lower end of the bill — an indispensable rung on the NC hip-hop farm system ladder, where a buzzing in-state act might get its first or second crack at performing for a huge, multi-thousand person crowd, and where fans get the opportunity to see up-and-coming artists in a larger-than-life, showcase context for the first time.

When you consider not only sanctioned events across the weekend, but pop-ups and adjacent shows that historically have taken place in Raleigh during Dreamville, the festival has clearly delivered on that developmental role already. At least as far as official performing slots are concerned, however, the homegrown North Carolina presence has been considerably subdued recently, and this year is no different, with just one non-Dreamville artist hailing from the Old North State (compare that to the trio of Rapsody, Mez and Cordae in 2019). So for our Dreamville 2024 preview, in addition to quick takes on who to see this time around, we've got some early requests for Dreamville curators to consider for '25 too. As the state continues to bubble as a rich but perennially slept-on hotbed for hip-hop talent, countless careers are ready to be kickstarted and cemented at the state's marquee event, if Dreamville is willing to take the chance on them.

Lute • Early set, Day 1 (April 6th)
When Charlotte-based emcee Lute was on the verge of quitting music entirely back in 2015, the idea of having a joint song one day with J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar might've seemed like a distant, if not entirely delusional, dream. And yet, that's exactly what happened just a few years later, when "Under The Sun" (also featuring Charlotte's DaBaby) opened the sprawling, 18-track compilation album Revenge of the Dreamers III in 2019. Since signing to Dreamville, there may not have been any professional moments bigger (at least in a commercial sense) than the Billboard 100-charting, RIAA-certified Platinum song, but in spending any time with the earnest, unpretentious rapper's catalog, you get the sense that for him, that's just fine. Still, the albums Gold Mouf (2022) and West 1996 (2017) have flown under far too many radars, as nearly no-skip offerings that manage to tackle universal themes in unique and clever ways. As a member of Dreamville, he's almost assured to be at the festival every year, but as an artist who continues to evolve, he's worth catching every time.

An NC Hip-Hop Gem Forgotten, Then Remembered
A letter to Lute’s debut mixtape, “West1996.”

TiaCorine • Early set, Day 2 (April 7th)
On the matter of whether TiaCorine's rambunctious, in-your-face musical stylings are your cup of tea there may be a certain amount of debate, but on this fact, there can be none: Corine is without a doubt North Carolina hip-hop's first breakout TikTok star.

That label may carry with it a certain pejorative tone, as if Tia were a flash-in-the-pan act with a single earworm that gave her a massive platform without the catalog of work to justify it, but the reality couldn't be further from the truth. Yes, the EP 34Corine does contain the TikTok-supercharged single "Lotto," but it was the overall package, from the set of songs to Tia's singular personality, that prompted an expansion of the EP in the form of The Saga of 34Corine, featuring national-level names DaBaby and Kenny Beats. Before being named a 2023 XXL Freshman, she had done it again, with the song "FreakyT" becoming a massive hit on the app as well. Coming off her first ever headlining tour, and offering a unique sound that shares DNA with the glitchy, candy coated hedonism of the ringtone rap era, this weekend figures to be yet another breakout (IRL) moment for the Winston-Salem artist.

J. Cole • Headlining, Day 2 (April 7th)
From the Dept of Things That Go Without Saying — any feature on North Carolina acts to see at Dreamville that doesn't mention Young Simba himself isn't worth its weight in sunflower seeds (forgive the strained Dix Park reference). There's a fair amount of skepticism and concern on the matter to go around, but there's no doubt that Cole's recent team-ups with Drake — on the song/video "First Person Shooter," as well as the "Big as the What?" tour this spring — have only further cemented the Fayetteville native's place as one of the biggest hip-hop acts on Earth. As with the Dreamville D-Day Gangsta Grillz mixtape in March of 2022, which dropped just days before the festival, Cole and Co. seem ever-aware of the event's role in the larger context of the label's music release calendar — manifesting this spring in the drip-drip-drip of Might Delete Later videos teasing Cole's next album, The Fall-Off. Whether or not any further surprises related to his next album are yet to come before Saturday, it's a thoroughly interesting moment in the Dreamville leader's career. One that almost undoubtedly will come with music we haven't heard before.

Early Wishlist for Dreamville 2025

One of the satisfying byproducts of an event like Dreamville Fest even making it to a Year 5 or 6 is the lens it provides for seeing and appreciating the transformation of artists over time — not just in the context of their own careers, but in relation to the event itself. Consider SZA: no doubt one of the bigger acts on Dreamville's 2019 bill, her name was nonetheless presented on equal footing with among many others (Big Sean, Nelly, Young Thug) near the top of the inaugural lineup. Five years later, things have changed: coming off an Album of the Year nomination for the magnificent SOS, she's the weekend's unquestioned star. Snow Hill/Raleigh emcee Rapsody, another performer from Dreamville's first iteration, is more than deserving of the same moment of recognition. Since she last appeared at the festival, Rap has been a paragon of quality over quantity — releasing the critically acclaimed concept album Eve, and now the promising upcoming album Please Don't Cry, and little else — but her profile and credibility has continued to grow. By the time next April rolls around, she'll be due for a setlist jump of her own.

Song of the Week: “Stand Tall” - Rapsody
The new single from her first album in five years hints at some of the best, most personal music of Rapsody’s career.

Charlotte's MAVI has come a long way since the frigid day in early 2020, documented by Rap Portraits, when he was taking early label meetings and playing his first-ever headlining NYC show. Over his past two albums, Let the Sun Talk and Laughing so Hard, it Hurts, MAVI has managed to capture a level of acclaim that rarely comes with the kind of deeply brooding, nuanced, almost literary music that he creates. Like Corine, MAVI has broken out as an underground star with, at least on the surface level, seemingly little lift from the usual suspects of North Carolina hip-hop (Dreamville & Cole, Jamla & 9th, etc.). It's a testament to the still-potent power of the Internet, and more importantly, the power of great music and a clear-eyed, honest vision to resonate with an audience.

G. Yamazawa
To some it may seem like a reach, but to others, it's one of the more obvious questions in Dreamville booking history: How has the creator of the statewide rallying cry and rightful heir to Petey Pablo's "Raise Up" — "North Cack" — never been invited to perform at the North Carolina hip-hop festival?? It would almost be reasonable to give Yamazawa a slot on the strength of that song alone, but the erstwhile nationally-touring poet hasn't stopped making better and better music in the years since. It's hard to find a better combination of swagger and smarts than what G delivered on the 2020 track "Yao Ming" (from the project, Durham vs Everybody), or a harder-hitting bit of introspection than "As Always," from 2022's George. "Raleigh-Durham isn't a city," as the meme goes, but it's high time that the two cities teamed up in the form of a Bull City rapper on Oak City's biggest bill. There's no one more deserving than G.

Also on the Dreamville weekend agenda:

Goldmouf Garage, hosted by Lute [FREE]
Friday, 1-8 PM, S Harrington St (next to CAM Raleigh)

Dreamville's Queen City ambassador pulls together a celebration of two of his favorite things — music and cars — with a stacked lineup of performers, like Elevator Jay and A Boy Named Leroy (formerly Well$), whose abilities warrant some shine at the festival, even if their public profile isn't enough to earn them an official Dreamville performance slot just yet.

Dreamville Public Access [FREE]
Friday, 11 AM-10 PM CAM Raleigh

For the more TED Talk-inclined, a series of seminars and conversations at CAM Raleigh on Friday offers a more academic setting for engaging with the Fest. Featuring an impressive roster of industry veterans and artists, including JID, T-Minus, Rapsody, MixedbyAli and more, the event will cover storytelling, song structure, touring, even how to DJ (hosted by longtime Triangle presence DJ Paradime).

Runologie x Tropy Brewing Daytime Block Party [FREE]
Friday, 11 AM-2 PM, Trophy Brewing

Enjoy a DJ Set by prolific and always-on-the-clock DJ Mikey Sharks, and photo booth by the Durham-based studio Yours, hosted by the Raleigh libations institution Trophy Brewing. Other events by Runologie this weekend include a Nike Pop-Up shop with merch from local artists that benefits the Dreamville Foundation, multiple group runs, more.


Dreamville Weekend Hangout Show — Pat Junior ft. Nance, Tesh, Tanajah [Tix $22]
Friday, 8 PM, The Pourhouse

Owie + Friendz DJ Party [Tix $20]
Friday, 7 PM, Transfer Co. Food Hall

Dreamville Pop-Up Shop
Every day Noon-7 pm, 207 S. West St.

See you there, y'all! If you're going to be at Dreamville in any capacity, shoot me an email so we connect. Would love to meet up with as many folks as possible.