Exclusive: Dreamville’s Lute and Roc Nation’s Reuben Vincent Shine For North Carolina During Dreamville Fest
Festival season is something music lovers look forward to every year. From NYC to the deserts of California, fans will travel for good music. However, one festival has climbed the ranks of go-to festivals in an often overlooked place.
Enter Raleigh, North Carolina, the capital city and home of Dreamville Records’ Dreamville Festival.
Held at Dorothea Dix Park, the festival is an outdoor weekend music celebration curated by Dreamville head honcho and Carolina native J. Cole. This sold-out Black-owned music festival “continues to emphasize community, diversity, and inclusivity throughout the onsite fan experience each spring,” according to the Dreamville Fest website.
Like most, the lineup changes yearly, but it’s something about the Carolina-born and bred artists that bring fire year after year. “Each year, it’s different. You know how you can watch a movie series without seeing the first one? That’s how Dreamville is,” Dreamville artist, Lute, told Black Enterprise. “If you went to the first one, it’s nothing like the second one, and if you went to the second one, it’s nothing like the first or the third one. Each year, it’s something completely different.”
Mr. “Beatties Ford til the wheels fall” hails just down 85-South from Charlotte and has been an artist on Cole’s label since 2015. We first heard of his melodic tone on the label’s 2015 collaborative project, Revenge of the Dreamers II. Two years later, his debut album, West1996 pt. 2, dropped, receiving prominent recognition and opening for Cole on the 4 Your Eyez Only World Tour.
The three-time Dreamville Fest performer later paid homage to Charlotte with the single, Under The Sun, released on the label’s second project, Revenge of the Dreamers III. Featuring fellow 704-based rapper Da Baby, and Cole World himself, the record received critical acclaim, notable as fans rapped the lyrics verbatim, and reached platinum status in 2020, according to HypeBeast.
Lute, whose real name is Luther Nicholson, says he is amazed at the elevation of music coming from North Carolina. His sophomore project, Gold Mouf, which he claims started as an alter ego, became an instant staple in the industry, paying homage to his journey with ballads like “100” and his background, shared on “Be Okay.” At 33, Dreamville Fest continues to push him to be a positive contributor to the genre. “Being from here, I feel great watching the music evolve while also knowing that I have a hand in it, you know?” he said. “It’s surreal to me because when I started out doing this, I didn’t know that it would evolve into this. I was just doing it for the fun of it. Now that younger cats are coming under us, knowing they listen to us, it’s mind-boggling.”
“Each day, I’m like, damn, I’m really an artist.”
And you could tell some right in the backyard were paying close attention and waiting for their turn. Like Roc Nation and Jamla Records artist Reuben Vincent, who first appeared on the “Shine” stage this year. Vincent, 22, got his start as a teenager in Charlotte before starting classes at North Carolina A&T State University. Like some, he realized his heart wasn’t for the books—it was for the studio.
Reuben told BE that one of his 2023 goals was to perform at the Raleigh show, saying it was “only right,” but after not hearing anything, he moved on. But a week before the lineup was released, his management team surprised him with the good news. “I was like, oh my goodness, this is actually happening,” he remembers. “How important this is for North Carolina because if you think about it, Dreamville is bringing something because the city needs it. It’s beautiful to come out here and see Black people together and enjoying music.”
“It’s love all around.”
Love indeed. The talented artist released his debut album, Love Is War, earlier this year, receiving heavy hitter support from fellow Carolina rapper, Rhapsody on the track “Feb. 13th.” In an intimate project, fans hear a story about a young man with roots in Liberia, navigating through life and love and finding his way. When he performs, music lovers should be prepared to hear music with a balance of legendary hip-hop, apparent by working with iconic NC-born producer 9th Wonder and some of today’s flow.
Tunes like “2ime Flies” and Geechie Suede” show the softer side of Vincent, but listening to “Butterfly Doors” and “Bottle Service,” you know he’s not here to play. When people tell him how he rides the balance, he’s not too surprised. “It’s not even a surprise; it’s just the times we live in,” Vincent said. “Nas was like 19 or 20 when he dropped Illmatic. When you look at the ones that did those things, it’s just me being aware of myself. If you really listen to what I’m saying, it’s always going to be something pure.”
That’s the feeling you get when you touch down for the festivities—pure love and fun. Amazon Music, who works closely to support Dreamville’s initiatives, hosted a 50 & Forever exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum, celebrating 50 years of hip-hop. Artists like Reuben Vincent and Lute are why Amazon continues showing their support. “We created 50 & Forever to celebrate one of the culture’s most important milestones: the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, and there was no better moment to kick off our celebration than at this year’s Dreamville Festival, Amazon Music’s Head of Hip-Hop and R&B, Tim Hinshaw, said.
“We worked closely with Dreamville to curate a 50 & Forever experience at CAM that showed how hip-hop has broken barriers and redefined culture across fashion, sports, film, and social movements. This is just the beginning; we can’t wait to bring you more events like this throughout this year.”
Both artists continue to remind everyone that NC has a strong presence in hip-hop. And being a part of an iconic lineup, with Usher and Drake headlining, adds value to their names. Vincent says he feels a duty to ensure his city gets its stamp. “I want to make sure Charlotte is amplified to its biggest point. If you look at every city, like Atlanta has OutKast and Lil’ Baby,” Vincent said. “When you think of Charlotte, I want it to be Reuben Vincent.”
For Lute, it’s all staying true to where it all started. His eyes are wide about the future, and he is ready to lift up who’s next in line. “Anything they need, I got you,” he says about being a mentor to upcoming artists. “I’m not a guide because Im still learning myself, but if my guys need me, they know where to find me.”