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Dreamville Festival: WUNC staff picks top songs from festival performers

From left to right: Schoolboy Q, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, J.I.D., and SZA.
Associated Press
From left to right: ScHoolboy Q, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, J.I.D., and SZA.

First things first: rest in peace, Uncle Phil.

"No Role Modelz," J.Cole's hit song of his album "2014 Forest Hills Drive," didn't make the cut for our staff picks from this year's Dreamville Fest, but plenty of other song's from the festival brainchild and headliner did.

The two-day event will kick off at Raleigh's Dorothea Dix Park on Saturday. Cole grew up in nearby Fayetteville, North Carolina, and uses this music festival as an opportunity to shine a light on the place that helped shaped him as an artist. This year's festival will be the fourth iteration. It's one of the biggest hip hop festivals in the South — last year's brought in more than $145 million to the Raleigh economy, according to the Dreamville economic impact report.

In addition to Cole, this year's performers include Nicki Minaj, SZA, ScHoolboy Q, J.I.D., and Jeezy, among others. Chris Brown and Muni Long were originally slated to perform, but have since been replaced by 50 Cent and Hunxho.

We asked our staff at WUNC to name their favorite songs from the lineup. Here's what they had to say:

Paige Miranda - Producer on Embodied

"The Boy is Mine" by Monica

I first listened to this on the 1999 Grammy's nominee CD and was so in awe of two powerhouses Monica and Brandy. The world desperately needs more fight-singing in songs.

"Co-Star" by Amaarae

So accurate on its portrayal of the astrological signs.

"Man Of The Year" by ScHoolboy Q

A victory lap of a song, and the sample of the Chromatics 'Cherry' is so propulsive and perfectly matches Q's energy.

Sharryse Piggott - PM Reporter

"Made for me" by Muni Long

I like this song because of how people use the song in different skits on Tik Tok. They are hilarious.

"So Gone" by Monica

I used to listen to this song after every break-up. Now I listen to it when I hit the gym.

"Studio" by ScHoolboy Q

My friends and I used to play this song before we went out clubbing.

"Back to Sleep" by Chris Brown

I play this song on every road trip. It’s a nice bop.

Charlie Shelton-Ormond - Podcast Producer

"Land of Snakes" by J. Cole

Built on a classic Outkast melody, this song is a great example of Cole's ability to revel in his success (on his major label debut) while recognizing the sinister ways that success can breed narcissism in those who aren't careful.

"JoHn Muir" by ScHoolboy Q

All of Q's best elements on full display: a smooth hook in the chorus surrounded by a confident and direct energy within each verse, with a sprinkle of some classic scratching on the beat to close it out.

"Blind" by SZA

An underrated song on an exceptional album! A simple guitar+strings melody that softly opens up SZA's vulnerable conscience.

"Top Down" by EARTHGANG

"Top down and I'm floatin' through the citttayyy" isn't just a hook, it's an order.

"151 Rum" by J.I.D

Buckle up and let J.I.D. drive.

Kamaya Truitt - Director of New Talent and Community Partnerships

"Osmosis" by EARTHGANG

I love the new EP they just dropped, Robophobia - specifically Osmosis. The beat and lyrics reminds me of the euphoria of "Feel Good Inc." by Gorillaz, and "Prototype" by Andre 3000, two of my favorite songs. I also love the experimental style of the song, it’s not something we typically hear from EARTHGANG.

"Crack Sandwich" by J.I.D.

The storytelling is impeccable and so Atlanta. It reminds me of how it felt to go to teen parties at Cascade and the way me and my siblings always had each others back in sticky situations. From the lyrics, to flow, to the beat change midway, he’s doing lyrical gymnastics.

"Blue Lips" (the album) by ScHoolboy Q

I can’t choose one song because the whole album is a work of art. He’s both introspective and critical of the current hip hop landscape. He address the duality of being a good father and trying to maintain a good lifestyle and the sacrifices that come with that. The diversity in the tonality of each track takes you on a eclectic journey through Q's mind.

Celeste Gracia - Environment Reporter

"All The Stars" by SZA and Kendrick Lamar

Because the entire 2018 Black Panther soundtrack is lit.

"Only" by Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, Drake, and Lil Wayne

This is my little sister’s hype song. I have core memories of her blasting this song in the car and rapping (almost) every word.

"KOD" by J. Cole

My best friend put this song in a playlist she made for me. This lyric at the end goes so hard: “and the strongest drug of them all…Love."

"on the street" by J. Cole and j-hope

It’s BTS y’all. Enough said.

Kaia Findlay - Producer on Embodied

"Come Get Her" by Rae Sremmurd

I love basically anything by Rae Sremmurd but I tried to reign it in to just one. This song makes me think of the internet video (that I now cannot find) of a rat on the New York City subway trying to climb up a pole, and somebody in the background is singing, "somebody come get her, she's dancing like a stripper"

"Gone Girl" by SZA

Needs no explanation.

"AMBEYONCE (feat. Smino)" by EARTHGANG

I love the energy of this song, it's a bop!

"White Keys" by Jeezy

As the title may suggest, it has piano riffs that remind me of Yamaha music class.

"Calm Down" by Rema

"Another banger," indeed!! (I realize that might be the most NPR thing to say about this).

Caitlin Leggett - Youth Reporting Institute Producer

"Kody Blu 33" by JID

It constantly reminds me of the influence that gospel music has on the world.

"Trickin’" by Reuben Vincent and Domani

The Katt Williams intro in the beginning is gold. The song itself is very nostalgic and fitting of the times.

Josh Sullivan - Social Media Producer

"Blow Up" by J. Cole

Mixtape Cole is something special, and represents the early days of my hip-hop education. I downloaded "Friday Night Lights" onto my iPod and listened to it during a drive up to a family camping trip. Nothing was the same afterward.

"J.E.E.Z.Y" by Jeezy

I learned about Jeezy back in the Myspace days. My friend put "Go Getta" as his profile song. His brother wrote on his page "bro, you definitely do not live the life of a Go Getta."

"Dollar and a Dream III" by J. Cole

This song has gotten me through some really tough times. I bought the CD at Target for $5 my first year out of college, when I was making no money at my first journalism job. It's resurfaced when I've needed it since.

"Raydar" by J.I.D.

I have a hard time picking just one J.I.D. song. "Raydar" is so creative, though, and it's lyrically genius. I never thought that a hook featuring a football referee's penalty call would go as hard as it does.

"Stick" by J.I.D.

Simply the hypest song around. The duality of man.

"SkeeYee" by Sexyy Red

Simply the second-hypest song around.

Bradley George - AM Reporter

"Superbass" by Nikki Minaj

"Don't Gotta Go Home" by Monica

"Forever Young" by Lil Yachty

"Fallin" by Domani

Christy Dixon - Corporate Support Associate

"Middle Child" by J.Cole

"Pretty Little Fears" by 6LACK featuring J.Cole

"No Guidance" by Chris Brown featuring Drake

"Consideration" by Rhianna featuring SZA

"All the Stars" by Kendrick Lamar featuring SZA

Josh Sullivan is a social media producer with WUNC’s digital news team.
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