Dreamville: The Record Label That’s Changing The Game
Dreamville Records was established in 2007 by the renowned & Grammy nominated artist, J. Cole and his manager, Ibrahim Hamad. 12 years later, with 8 artists under their belt alongside 3 producers, Dreamville is ready to break through the mainstream glass, leaving no one behind.
Dreamville is not your average record label. They are described as nothing less than revolutionary and are transforming the way record labels do things. If you’ve read the news or watched a biopic, like Straight Outta Compton, based on N.W.A or The New Edition Story following the old school RnB & pop group New Edition, your understanding of record labels would be that they would rather chase a cheque than look out for their own artists. J. Cole & Ibrahim built Dreamville a different way. They wanted to develop their record label over time and wanted every connection or move they made to be as organic as possible, just like their relationship. J. Cole and Ibrahim are long-time friends, originally meeting each other at St. Johns University. In a Tidal podcast, Rap Radar, J. Cole says directly after his headline performance at the Dreamville festival that he’s a fan of every single one of his artists and he’s familiar with all their songs. He is also very involved in their album process, giving them his own notes but ultimately giving his artists full creative freedom. He said, “it’s more being a fan of them than business. If it was business, then I’d sign other artists with hit records”.
It’s quite rare to see what J. Cole & Ibrahim have built with their record label. They’ve created a tight-knit, unified collective that all think of each other as family. Ibrahim states in an interview with Forbes that, “we have a brand that is really realistic and understands people...If there were zero dollars available for Dreamville, we would still have artists doing what they do because they believe in their dreams and what they want to say”. Dreamville focuses on their artists and their talent development first, swaying from traditional record label interests and are doing so quite successfully.
J. Cole stated in the Rap Radar podcast that when he considers signing an artist to Dreamville, they must go through a “dating period”, where for months they’re back and forth working with each other, introducing them to the other artists, establishing trust and ensuring that they genuinely enjoy having a working relationship. Bas, the first artist signed to Dreamville, is Ibrahim’s brother and stated in the interview with Forbes that when he was signed, Cole said to him “look, I’m not putting any pressure on my artists to chase radio singles. It’ll take longer for them to break, but they’ll have long, sustainable careers”. Even J.I.D and EarthGang signing to Dreamville was 100% organic as they were high school friends, meeting Bas through EarthGang opening a show for Ab-Soul, and through Bas, met J. Cole. It is refreshing to see what Dreamville has become and what they stand for. The artists are relatable in different ways than other artists from other labels as their come-up is inspiring to your modern day adult, providing an aspiration to college students and reviving the hope that if you stick with your day ones, you can still make it.
The loyalty and chemistry within Dreamville is also felt within the fans. The label has built a cult following to each and every artist, as well as, creating a culture for their fanbase. Dreamville focuses on talent development and nurturing their passion for music as opposed to exploiting their artists has made the record label flourish.
Despite most of Dreamville’s artists not hitting mainstream just yet, the label continues to stick by them and according to J. Cole, with the Dreamville festival back in April and the Revenge of the Dreamers III being released, 2019 is the year the record label is ready to break through the mainstream glass.
By: Breanna Tugaga-Rogers