Beyond the Music: Dreamville Festival’s Community Impact


By Jordan Meadows, Staff Writer

Dreamville Festival, an annual event spearheaded by hip-hop artist and Fayetteville native J. Cole, has once again made waves in the city of Raleigh, North Carolina. With a reported attendance of 50,000 people each day over the weekend, totaling a staggering 100,000 attendees, the festival has solidified its status as one of the world’s premier artist-led festivals. 

With music at the forefront, performers showcased their talents against the backdrop of the sprawling Dorothea Dix Park. From rising stars like Luh Tyler, Bas, and Sexyy Red, to established icons such as Nicki Minaj, the stage was a dynamic mix of sounds and styles. 

Culminating the weekend extravaganza, J. Cole himself took the spotlight on Sunday night, joined by fellow artists who had graced the festival stages earlier, along with surprise guests not originally part of the Dreamville lineup. Among the notable additions were London-based rapper Central Cee and Chicago’s own Lil Durk, adding an extra layer of excitement and diversity to the already electrifying performances.

Dreamville Festival, now in its fourth year, serves as an annual reunion for fans worldwide, drawing both NC residents and international travelers to experience a weekend of unparalleled celebration. 

Emphasizing their commitment to Raleigh and its community, Dreamville expanded this year’s festivities into a week-long celebration, beginning on April 3rd. This extended schedule offered festival-goers a plethora of opportunities to engage with local businesses, explore the beauty of North Carolina, and immerse themselves in unique cultural experiences curated by the Dreamville team. From pop-up shops to comedy clashes and game nights, the festival week offered a diverse set of events that cater to all interests.

For instance, attendees were treated to yoga sessions led by Olu from the hip-hop duo EARTHGANG, who also showcased their nonprofit organization’s climate change initiative in collaboration with Microsoft.

With over 50 popular culinary destinations from both Raleigh and across the nation, festival-goers indulged in a plethora of mouth-watering options ranging from pizza to BBQ, burgers to wings, and everything in between. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options ensure that there’s something for everyone to enjoy, further enhancing the festival experience.

The festival’s impact on the local economy is undeniable. Last year, it brought in over $145 million to Wake County alone, with significant boosts in sectors such as hospitality, food and beverage, and ground transportation. Vendors like Oak City Fish and Chips, a favorite of J. Cole himself, reported substantial earnings, with the potential to rake in around $80,000 in just two days.

Dreamville Festival attracts attendees from far and wide. People travel from all 50 states and over 20 countries to be part of the experience.

Various community organizations from across the state set up booths on the festival grounds. Among them was the Dreamville Foundation, which focuses on aiding children and supporting their families as they navigate social challenges in and around Fayetteville. Their mission is to bridge the gap of opportunities for urban youth. 

The NC Black Alliance (NCBA) also attended the festival. This organization works toward state-level systemic change by strengthening the network of elected officials representing communities of color and collaborating with progressive, grassroots networks on intersecting issues – ranging from voting rights, gerrymandering, criminal justice reform, and education. 

The NCBA’s purpose in their participation in Dreamville was to reach a large audience of young people, particularly those between the ages of 18 to 40 as this demographic is the largest voting power in the nation yet often underrepresented. The festival’s sheer popularity and attendance provide organizations like the NCBA with a unique opportunity to connect and empower young voters through awareness and advocacy.

“For this activation, NCBA utilized current NC HBCU students from the Youth Voter Engagement program who serve as civic influencers and mobilizers on their campuses to facilitate the activation. NCBA’s “Dream in Black” activation theme served as a creative and thought-provoking space where festival attendees could explore and articulate their ideas about what an ideal society would look like for black people,” said Tiffany Seawright, the Lead Program Associate at NCBA. “NCBA remains committed to the partnership and looks forward to actively participating in future editions of the Dreamville Festival.”

There were many community organizations present from other regions of the state; Heal Charlotte, which was established to facilitate dialogue and foster relationships between urban youth, families, law enforcement, government agencies, and community partners, attended the festival. Through camps, workshops, and community events, they aim to engage a diverse group of youth to build stronger neighborhoods in and around Charlotte, North Carolina.

Additionally, Fayetteville Urban Ministry, a community-led nonprofit, attended the festival. They are committed to providing resources to those less fortunate in Cumberland County. Their services range from financial assistance to English language learning, mentorship programs, and initiatives promoting social justice and equity. 

The event also featured Gallery 13, a Fayetteville-based contemporary art group, the NC Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Eustress Inc., a mental health management organization, and the Two-Six Group, serving as an incubator for scholarships, educational programs, sports, and creative activities in Fayetteville. 

The festival’s organizers made concerted efforts to enhance the attendee experience. A tent was set up within the venue for fans to catch the NCAA Women’s Championship game, allowing them to multitask and maximize their enjoyment. Additionally, partnerships with hotels and airlines offered fans favorable rates, ensuring a seamless experience from booking accommodations to enjoying the festival.

Public safety was a top priority for Dreamville Festival this year: increased shuttle services and police presence aimed to manage the influx of attendees and traffic efficiently, ensuring a safe and enjoyable environment for all.

Dreamville Festival has become a cultural phenomenon, driving economic growth, promoting sustainability initiatives, and bringing people together in celebration of art and music. With each passing year, it solidifies its place as a cornerstone of Raleigh’s cultural landscape and a must-attend event for music enthusiasts worldwide. 

As the countdown to April 2025 begins, all eyes are on Dreamville, ready to witness another unforgettable celebration of music, culture, and community.

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